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Title: From Farm House to the White House

Author: William Makepeace Thayer

Release date: April 27, 2009 [eBook #28618]
Most recently updated: January 4, 2021

Language: English

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From Farm House
to the White House





From Farm House
to the White House

By William M. Thayer

Author of "From Log Cabin to White House," "From Pioneer Home to White House," "From Tannery to White House," "From Boyhood to Manhood," etc., etc.



Log Cabin to White House Series.


From Boyhood to Manhood—Life of Benjamin Franklin.

From Farm House to White House—Life of George Washington.

From Log Cabin to White House—Life of James A. Garfield, with eulogy by Hon. James G. Blaine.

From Pioneer Home to White House—Life of Abraham Lincoln, with eulogy by Hon. Geo. Bancroft.

From Tannery to White House—Life of Ulysses S. Grant.

By Edward S. Ellis:

From Ranch to White House—Life of Theodore Roosevelt.

Price Post-Paid, 75¢. each, or $4.50 for the set.

Publishers, New York.

Copyright, 1890, By JAMES H. EARLE.




This Volume,


From Boyhood to Manhood


Career and Noble Character




Is Sincerely and Affectionately Dedicated.


Every American, old or young, should become familiar with the life of Washington; it will confirm their patriotism and strengthen their loyalty. Such a character will become an inspiration to them, eliciting nobler aims, and impelling to nobler deeds.


Washington himself wrote to his step-son, who was in college:

"You are now extending into that stage of life when good or bad habits are formed; when the mind will be turned to things useful and praiseworthy or to dissipation and vice. Fix on which ever it may, it will stick by you; for you know it has been said, and truly, 'The way the twig is bent the tree's inclined.' This, in a strong point of view, shows the propriety of letting your inexperience be directed by maturer advice, and in placing guard upon the avenues which lead to idleness and vice. The latter will approach like a thief, working upon your passions, encouraged, perhaps, by bad examples, the propensity to which will increase in proportion to the practice of it and your yielding. Virtue and vice cannot be allied, nor can idleness and industry; of course if you resolve to adhere to the former of these extremes, an intimacy with those who incline to the latter of them would be extremely embarrassing to you; it would be a stumbling block in your way, and act like a mill-stone hung to your neck; for it is the nature of idleness and vice to obtain as many votaries as they can....

"It is to close application and perseverance that men of letters and science are indebted for their knowledge and usefulness; and you are now at the period of life when these are to be acquired, or lost for ever. As you know how anxious your friends are to [6] see you enter upon the grand theatre of life with the advantages of a finished education, a highly cultivated mind, and a proper sense of your duties to God and man, I shall only add one sentiment before I close this letter and that is, to pay due respect and obedience to your tutors, and affectionate reverence for the president of the college, whose character merits your highest regards. Let no bad example, for such is to be met in all seminaries, have an improper influence upon your conduct. Let this be such, and let it be your pride to demean yourself in such a manner as to obtain the good will of your superiors and the love of your fellow students."

Better advice than this was never given to a youth; and to enforce it, we present in this volume the life and character of the great man who so lovingly tendered it. By employing the colloquial style, anecdotal illustration, and thrilling incident, the author hopes more successfully to accomplish his purpose.

In the preparation of this work the author has availed himself of the abundant material furnished by Washington's well-known biographers, Ramsey, Weems, Marshall, Sparks, Bancroft, Irving, Everett, Custis, etc., together with the anecdotes of his earlier and later life, found in eulogies, essays, and literary articles upon his life and character, with which the literature of our country abounds. Incident is allowed to tell the life story of the subject. The incidents of his boyhood and youth are particularly narrated, that the achievements of ripe manhood [7]may more clearly appear to be the outcome of a life well begun. To such an example parents and guardians can point with confidence and hope.

Believing that biography should be written and read so as to assure a sharp analysis of character, thereby bringing the real qualities of the subject to the front, and believing, also, that the biographies of the noblest men only should be written for the young, since "example is more powerful than precept," the author sends forth this humble volume, invoking for it the considerate indulgence of critics, and the blessing of Divine Providence.

W. M. T. Franklin, Mass.



Ancestors in England—John and Lawrence Washington—Family of Note—The Washington Manor and Irving—Sir Henry Washington in War—English Fox Hunting—Washington and Franklin—The Washingtons in America—Birth of George—House where born—Ceremony of placing a Slab on it by Custis—Paulding describes the Place—The House described—George baptized—Removal to Banks of Rappahannock—Large Estates—Style of Living—Vast Wilderness—Militia—Depredations by Indians—Negro Slavery 23


Reliable Information about it—Visit to the Orchard, and the Rebuke to Selfishness—George's Name growing in the Garden—Its Lesson about God—The Hatchet, and it Lesson about Lying—Raising a Regiment of Soldiers—George's Brother in Uniform—Effect of Military Display on George—Playing Soldier—His Brother Lawrence a Good Soldier—Love Greater than War—George's Military Spirit increasing—George's Manly Bearing—Excels in Athletic Sports—What Fitzhugh said—The Sequel 36


His Brother Lawrence educated in England—Leaving Home—George at School when Five Years Old—His Teacher, Hobby—What a Biographer says of his Progress—The Homeschool—His Writing-book and Thoroughness—A Good Speller—Studying and Playing with all his Might—Best Runner, Wrestler, etc.—The School Grounds a Military Camp—An English and Spanish Army of Boys—Juvenile Commander-in-chief—A Quarrel that George could not Conquer—Truth-teller and Peacemaker—At Mr. Williams' School, and a Mother's Lesson—Studying Surveying—Mimic War—Surveying School-grounds—Later Surveying—Settling a Difficulty—Acting as Umpire—What Mr. Weems says—What Mrs. Kirkland says 52


Doing Things Well—Dialogue with Lawrence—His "Book of Forms," and what a Schoolmate thought of it—His "Book of Problems:" its Use and Abuse—His "Book of Drawing"—Odd Moments—Preserving Bits of Prose and Verse—What Irving says—His "Rules of Behavior"—What Lawrence Washington and his Wife thought of them—Their Influence over him—Part of them Quoted—What Everett says of them—Author's Opinion—Sample Extract from his Copy-book—These show his Character—His Heart made a Level Head 72


His Father's Sudden Sickness—George at Chotauk—The Doctor's Opinion—Growing Worse, and Startling Revelation—George sent for—He arrived when his Father was dying—Affecting Scene—Death and Will—The Arabian Colt—Attempt to ride him—The Animal killed—George confessing his Wrong-doing—The "Lowland Beauty"—George in Love—A Human Heart after All—What Irving says about it—Naval Officers at Vernon—Wants to be a Midshipman—His Mother's Opposition, and Lawrence's Approval—Enlists—Appears before his Mother in Naval Costume—Her Grief—He does not go—His True Manliness asserts itself 82


Her Views of Correct Family Government—Secret of George's Correct Life—What Custis says about it—What Lawrence Washington said—Obedience commanded—How she commanded her Servants—Her One Book, next to the Bible, consulted—What Everett said of it—Quotations from it—They teach Honesty, Industry, Fidelity, Religion, etc.—Her Ancestry—Courage—Afraid of Lightning—Her Singular Dream—Weems' Explanation—Care of her Family—Mr. Sparks' Tribute—Irving's Tribute—Her Son visits her before going to War—Her Patriotism—Taking Charge of her Own Business—Her Joy over Cornwallis' Surrender—Her Son's Visit to her—The Ball, and his Staff introduced to her—Compared with Napoleon's Mother—Lafayette's Visit to her—Her Son's Visit to her before becoming President—Custis' description of the Scene—Her Death, Burial, and Monument—Jackson's Eulogy—John Adams' Words—The Mother of Such a Son, and the Son of Such a Mother 103


His Mother's Views about his Future—The Plea of Lawrence—Goes to Live at Mount Vernon—Lawrence's Eye on a Military Life for him—Lessons in "The Manual Exercise"—Lessons in "Fencing"—Reading Military Treatises—In the Family of William Fairfax—What the Latter thought of him—Meets Lord Fairfax—What Everett says of him—What Irving says—Reading Books and Fox Hunting—An Unexpected Proposition—Becomes a Surveyor—His Appearance now—Keeping a Journal—Extracts from Letter and Journal—Mode of Life described—Hardships—What Abbott and Everett say of his Hardships—Camping Out—In Indian Wigwam—His Journal describes a Scene—Other Entries—What he recorded—Sparks' Tribute to his Thoroughness as a Surveyor—Everett's Tribute—The Stevenson Family—Sports with the Seven Sons—Among his Officers, Later—Greenaway Court—Appointed Public Surveyor—In Training for the War of Seventy-six 132


The Proposition of Lawrence, and Discussion of it—Appointed Adjutant-general—Ill Health of Lawrence—Decides to spend the Winter in Barbadoes—George goes with him—Lawrence no Better—George has the Small-pox—Returns to Virginia in April—Lawrence returns in June and dies in Six Weeks—George one of his Executors—What Everett says of it—Enters Masonic Lodge—His Commission renewed—Duties pressing upon him—Signs of War—Encroachments by the French—The Claims of the Indians—What a Chief said—The Governor's Conference with Gist—Mission to the French proposed—George offers his Services—Interview with Governor Dinwiddie—A Copy of his Commission—His Companions—Visits his Mother—Letter to French Commander 150


The Journey begun—Route—A Storm—A Torrent—Baggage on Canal—Visit to Shingiss—Tanacharisson—Monochatica—Meeting Deserters—Learning of the Forts from there to New Orleans—The Half-king—Describes his Visit to Pierre Paul, now Dead—His Speech—Pierre Paul's Reply—Indian Council and Washington's Speech—Indian's Reply—Results of the Council—Indians to conduct them to the Fort—Journey delayed—Way to Venango—Arrival and Conference with the French—Dinner Scene—Information 163


The Next Fort—Introduction to Commander—Arrival of Paul's Successor—Receives Dinwiddie's Letter—Washington draws Plan of the Fort—His Inquiries about Certain Captures—Reparti's Reply to Dinwiddie—French attempt to bribe Indians—Injury to White Thunder, and Delay—Return Journey—Snow—Washington and Gist leave the Party—Their Adventure—The Indian Guide—He proves False—A Startling Episode—The Indian disposed of—Reaching the River—Building a Raft—Attempt to Cross—Washington straggling in the Water—They reach an Island—Escape—Twenty Indian Warriors—The Indian Queen—Arrival at Williamsburg—Interview with the Governor—His Journal printed 178


Effect of Washington's Mission—Orders from the King—Recruiting—The Governor's Bounty to Soldiers—Washington offered the Command—Talk with a Friend—Letter to Colonel Corbin—Does not accept Command—Payne knocks Washington down—How the Affair ended—What McGuire says of Washington's Magnanimity—Washington takes up his March—Meeting Captain Trent—Need of More Men—Courier announces Surrender of Fort—Declaration of War—Washington's Prompt Action—March to Red Stone Creek and Great Meadows—The French surprised, and a Battle—Jumonville killed—Entrenching at Great Meadows—Short of Supplies—His Own Chaplain—Order against Swearing—Marching to meet the Foe—Retreat to Great Meadows—A Hot Battle—Washington surrenders—Return to Williamsburg—Honors, and Larger Provisions—Death of Jumonville justified—Dinwiddie's Words 194


Governor Dinwiddie's Proposition—Washington dissents—Dinwiddie insists—Washington's Letter—His Rank reduced from Colonel to Captain—He resigns, and retires to Mount Vernon—The Enterprise abandoned—A Convention of the Colonies—The King sends General Braddock with Army—He demands the Services of Washington—Their Correspondence and Interview—Washington's Motive—On the Staff—Meeting with his Mother—The March begins—Grand Spectacle—Braddock's Talk with Dr. Franklin—Underrating Indian Tactics—Washington disabled by Sickness—Talk with Braddock about Indians—Army Wagons Useless—Braddock's Temper and Love of Drink—Good Disciplinarian—Washington's Advice rejected—Indian Allies—How deserted—What Scarvoyadi said—Surprised by Indians—Terrible Battle—Washington's Bravery—Dr. Craik's Word—An Eye-witness—How British fought—Braddock mortally wounded—Whole Command on Washington—Retreat—Braddock's Confession—Dies at Fort Necessity—Burial—Horrible Scenes at Duquesne—Testimony of a Prisoner—Words of Washington—Letter to his Mother—Letter to his Brother 211


General Dunbar a Coward—Goes into Winter Quarters in Philadelphia—Assembly meets—Washington's Advice to the Governor—The Assembly Timid—Washington appointed Commander-in-chief of Virginia Forces—Failure of the Other Expeditions—Conference with Fairfax—Headquarters at Winchester—A Great Scare—Its Funny Termination—Washington's Appeal to Dinwiddie—Trouble with Captain Dagworthy—Goes to Boston on Horseback—Meets Miss Phillips in New York—Honors—His Return—Love in New York—Sudden Alarm calls him to Winchester—Hurried Steps at Defence—Letter to Loudoun describing the Condition of Frontier—Appeal to Dinwiddie for the Terrified People—Indian Atrocities—Dreadful Scenes described by Washington—Washington Sick Four Months—Changes 232


Great Need of the Hour—The People Timid—Washington's Mother again—Another Expedition against Duquesne—Size of the Army—Goes to Williamsburg—Mr. Chamberlain's Salutation—Stops to Dine—Meets Mrs. Custis—A Widow Bewitching—Business done—Returning, stops to see Mrs. Custis—A Treaty of Love—The New Road Project—Washington opposes it—Elected to House of Burgesses—Delay—Army moved in September—Braddock's Folly repeated—Washington overruled—His Prophecy—Major Grant—His Reckless Course—Conceit of Grant and Forbes—Marching into an Indian Ambuscade—A Bloody Battle—Defeat of the English—Retreat—Where was Washington—His Views—Forbes proposes Winter Quarters—Washington proposes and leads Another Attack—The Enemy escapes from the Fort—Washington plants Flag over it—Leaves Force to rebuild—French War ended—Washington resigns—Goes to Mount Vernon—Testimonial of Officers 249


Who was Mrs. Custis—Rich and Beautiful—Washington's Marriage—What Negro said of him—Took Seat in House of Burgesses—Happy Man—The Legislature do him Honor—Removes to Mount Vernon—His Estates described—Sixteen Spinning Wheels—Mrs. Washington at the Head—Irving's Description—Rank necessarily maintained—Company, and English Style—Mrs. Washington's Wardrobe—His Wardrobe—Education of her Children—Their Wardrobe—Her Kindness to Slaves—Domestic Habits—Washington labored on Farm—Systematic Habits—Improvements on Farm—Reclaiming Dismal Swamp—Hunting in Winter—Interlopers, and the War against them—The Hunter conquered—Attending Episcopal Church—Mrs. Washington a Devout Christian—Building a House of Worship—Washington at Church—Death of Mrs. Washington's Daughter—The Son Wayward—Letter about Love—King's College, and Incident—Keeping his Books—In her Husband's Headquarters in Winter—Death—Mount Vernon now 270


More Indian Depredations, and War—Washington's Conference with Mason on English Tyranny—Taxation without Representation—Oppressive Acts multiplied—The Stamp Act—Patrick Henry in the Assembly—Treason—Governor dissolved the Assembly—A Re-election—Washington stands with Patrick Henry—Discussion with Fairfax on the State of Affairs—Dr. Franklin before a Committee of Parliament—Friends of America in Parliament—Next Assembly Bolder, and dissolved by Governor—Washington's Plan to use no Articles taxed—The Tax removed except on Tea—Tea thrown into Boston Harbor—Action of the Citizens against British Soldiers—Day of Fasting and Prayer—Effigies and Mock Processions Boston Port Bill—Washington's Journey to Ohio in Behalf of his Old Soldiers—First American Congress—The Chaplain Memorial to the King—Chatham's Defence of the Colonies—British Soldiers sent to Boston—The Patriots aroused—Battles of Lexington and Concord—The Revolution begun—Putnam and the Grand Rally—Second American Congress—Washington and Adams—Raise an Army, and choose Washington for Commander-in-chief—Adams' Opinion of him 295


Adams to Washington—Prepares to Take Command—Letter to Mrs. Washington—His Will—Another Letter—Starts—Meets a Courier—His Journey—Legislature—Assumes Command—Mrs. Adams' Opinion—Talk with Gen. Ward—Order and Discipline—Condition of the Army—Washington's first Order—Change Wrought—Scarcity of Powder—Feat of Knox—Washington's Headquarters—Day of Fasting—Arrival of Supplies—Cruelty of British to Prisoners—Remonstrance Against—Retaliation—Army Reduced—Feelings of Washington—Proposed Attack on Boston—His Plan—Cannonading Described—British Repulsed by Storm—Boston Evacuated—British Depredation—Washington Provides for Charity at Home—Mrs. Washington in Cambridge—His Rigid Discipline, an Incident—Old South and North Church—A Theatre and a Scare—British Pride Humbled—Action of Congress 321


Where the Enemy is going—General Putnam in Command at New York—Washington Goes There—Hears from the Enemy—Condition of our Army in New York—Words of Washington—Letter to his Brother—Action of Congress—Plot to Seize Washington—A Conspirator Hung—Enemy in the Harbor—Declaration of Independence Read to the Army—Statue of George III. destroyed—Putnam and Hamilton—Sir Henry Clinton—Attacking Fort Moultrie—Cudjo—The Army encouraged—The Corporal rebuked—The Sabbath honored—Washington's Address—Army in Bad plight—Order against Profanity—The Enemy moving to capture Brooklyn Heights—Livingston's Message—Washington's Address to Army—Terrible Battle—Americans retreat under cover of Storm—What Sparks says of it—A Council of War—Deserters—Retreat from New York—Stand at Harlem—Nathan Hale—Washington's Daring—Great Fire in New York—Loss in Canada—Disaffection in Army—General Lee returns to Harlem—Council of War—Another Retreat necessary 349


Fort Washington and Allies—Retreat to White Plains—Looking for a Position—The Enemy in Camp—A Battle—Falling back to North Castle—The Enemy withdraw—What Washington suspected—Advised to evacuate Fort Washington—The Enemy capture the Fort—Gloomy Times—Retreat over the Hackensack—Retreat to Newark—General Lee disobeying Orders—Further Retreat—Boats for Seventy Miles collected—Disappointment and a Plot—Opposition to Washington—Retreat to Trenton—Darkest Hour yet—Washington still hopeful—Will retreat over every River and Mountain—General Lee's Treasonable Course—General Heath's Firmness—Crossing the Delaware—Skill of Washington in Retreating—Lee still disobeys Orders—Lee's Folly and Capture—Magnanimity of Washington 372


Putnam fortifying Philadelphia—Congress investing Washington with More Power—Arrival of Troops—Startling Proposition by Washington—Recrosses the Delaware to Fight—His Address to his Army—The Battle—The Enemy driven—The Hessian Commander mortally wounded—Fruits of this Victory—The Welcome News spreads—Washington sees the Time for Another Blow—Over the Delaware again—Raises Money for the Army—Action of Congress—The Enemy marching from Princeton—A Battle—Cornwallis outwitted—God on the Side of the Weak Battalions—Battle of Princeton—An Affecting Incident—Cornwallis at his Wits End—Results of the Battle—Fall of General Mercer—His Bravery to the End—Washington goes to Morristown for Winter Quarters—The Enemy Panic-stricken—Driven out of Jersey—Wonderful Achievements in Ten Days—Tributes of Praise—Camp at Morristown broken up—Celebrating the Lord's Supper—Encamped at Germantown—British Fleet appears—Washington meets Lafayette, and appoints him on his Staff—Some Account of the Young Nobleman 389


Plans of the British for 1777—A Temperance Officer—Battle of Bennington—Grand Victory—Battle at Fort Schuyler—Indian Butchery—Miss McCrea murdered by them—Battle of Brandywine—Lafayette wounded—Providential Care—Battle of Germantown, and Results—Washington's Daring—Forts reduced, and the Enemy take Philadelphia—Burgoyne captured, and his Supplies—Kosciusko—The British revelling in Philadelphia—Washington in Winter Quarters at Valley Forge—Famine in Camp, and Great Sufferings—Washington feeding a Soldier—A Conspiracy against the Chief—Dr. Craik—Hamilton—Mrs. Washington in Camp—Her Pity for Soldiers—Washington engaged in Prayer—Baron Stuben—Pulaski—Exchange of Distinguished Prisoners—Alliance with France—Council of War—British evacuate Philadelphia—Pursued—Battle of Monmouth—A Thrilling Incident, and Dr. Griffith—The Fifer Boy—Lee's Cowardly Conduct—Hamilton—Washington's Exposure to Death—Grand Victory—Enemy retreat—Lee Court-martialed—Arrival of French Fleet—Winter Quarters at Middlebrook—Cruelties of the Enemy—Massacres of Cherry Valley and Wyoming—Scenes at close of 1779—British Cruelty to Prisoners in the "Sugar House" and "Jersey Prison-ship" 405


Treason of Arnold—How Accomplished—Capture and Execution of André—Arnold serving in the British Army—Ravages in Virginia—Attacking Mount Vernon—Washington goes South—Calls at Mount Vernon—Joins Lafayette at Williamsburg—Attacks Cornwallis at Yorktown—Bombardment—Governor Nelson—Taking of Two Redoubts—Washington's Narrow Escape—Surrender of Cornwallis—Washington's Order—Fruits of the Victory—The Formal Delivery of Cornwallis' Sword—Delivery of Flags—Divine Service—Sickness and Death of his Step-son—Sad Scene—Help of French Fleet—God for Small Battalions again—Washington's War-horse—News of Cornwallis' Surrender in Philadelphia—Action of Congress, and Day of Thanksgiving—News in England—Washington's Plan to Push the War 426


Conference with Lafayette—Negotiations for War—Sir Henry Clinton—Treaty of Peace—What America Won, and England Lost—Washington Parting with his Soldiers—Meets Congress at Annapolis—Retires to Mount Vernon—Improvement of his Mansion and Plantations—Encourages Education—Refuses Gift of $40,000—Generosity to the Poor—A Pleasing Incident—Meeting Payne again—His Industry—In Convention to Form Constitution—Elected President—Reluctance to Accept—Journey to New York—Ovation at Trenton—At New York—His Cabinet—Style of Living—Grooming Horses—His Sickness—Tour through New England—Example of Punctuality—Too Late for Dinner—The Pair of Horses—Presidential Mansion—The Injured Debtor—Urged for Second Presidential Term—Elected—Fruits of it—Tour South, and Punctuality—Amount of his Work—Thoroughness—Civil Service Reform—Lafayette in Exile—Washington's Maxims—Offered a Third Term—Farewell Address—Retirement—His Opposition to Slavery—Emancipation of them—The Result 440


Exposure and Cold—Ignores Wise Suggestions—Severe Attack—Rawlins bleeds him—Believes his End is Near, and Resignation—His Will—The Physicians arrive—All Remedies fail—His Last Request—Death—Mrs. Washington's Words—What Custis says of her—Sad Tidings spread—Action of Congress—The Senate's Letter to President Adams—The Funeral at Mount Vernon—Sorrow Universal—What Irving says—Eulogy by Fisher Ames—Lord Brougham's Estimate—Everett's Final Conclusion, and Father of His Country 484


Eulogy by General Henry Lee 491




More than two hundred years ago, when America was chiefly inhabited by Indians two brothers, in England, John and Lawrence Washington, resolved to remove hither. As they were not poor, doomed to eke out a miserable existence from a reluctant soil, it is supposed that politics was the immediate cause of their removal. It was during the reign of Cromwell, and he made it hot for his enemies. In 1655 a general insurrection was attempted, and the vengeance of Cromwell descended upon the heads of all the participants and not a few of their friends, making their land an uncomfortable place for a residence. There is no evidence that these brothers were engaged in the insurrection; but there is quite sufficient proof that the political situation was stormy, subjecting the Washington family to frequent molestation.

Edward Everett says: [26]"There is no doubt that the politics of the family determined the two brothers, John and Lawrence, to emigrate to Virginia; that colony being the favorite resort of the Cavaliers, during the government of Cromwell, as New England was the retreat of the Puritans, in the period which preceded the Commonwealth."

We suspect that these brothers did not understand Indians as well as they did Cromwell, or they would not have been so willing to exchange the latter for the former. However, English colonists had settled in the wilderness of Virginia, and, possibly, some of their own acquaintances were already there. They knew somewhat of that particular portion of the new world, and what they knew was generally favorable. Being young men, too, unmarried, intelligent, adventurous and fearless, life in America appeared to them romantic rather than otherwise. Be this as it may, John and Lawrence Washington removed to this country in 1657, and settled in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

One fact indicates that they belonged to a noble ancestry. Lawrence was educated at Oxford University, and was a lawyer by profession, and therefore was a young man of rank and promise, while John was engaged in business and resided on a valuable estate at South Cove in Yorkshire. They were young men of brains and tact, fitted by natural endowments and education to lay the foundation of things in a new country. They descended from an ancestry of honor and influence from the twelfth century. That ancestry lived in warlike times. Some of them were renowned for deeds of heroism. All of them were known for loyalty, intelligence and solidity of character. Washington Irving paid a visit to the ancient "Washington's manor" at Sulgrave, several years before he wrote the "Life of George Washington," and he said,—


"It was in a rural neighborhood, where the farm-houses were quaint and antiquated. A part only of the manor-house remained, and was inhabited by a farmer. The Washington crest, in colored glass, was to be seen in a window of what is now the buttery. A window, on which the whole family arms was emblazoned, had been removed to the residence of the actual proprietor of the manor. Another relic of the ancient manor of the Washingtons was a rookery in a venerable grove hard by. The rooks, those staunch adherents to old family abodes, still hovered and cawed about their hereditary nests. In the pavement of the parish church we were shown a stone slab, bearing effigies, on plates of brass, of Lawrence Washington, gent., and Anne his wife, and their four sons and eleven daughters. The inscription, in black letters, was dated 1564."

A nephew of John and Lawrence Washington, Sir Henry Washington, distinguished himself in the civil wars, under Prince Rupert, at the storming of Bristol, where he broke through the wall with a handful of infantry after the assailants had been beaten off, and led the forces to victory. For his prowess he was promoted, and was in command at Worcester, when that place was stormed, at a time when the king fled from Oxford in disguise and the loyal cause was in peril. He received a letter from General Fairfax, whose victorious army was at Haddington, demanding the immediate surrender of Worcester. Colonel Washington replied:

"Sir,—It is acknowledged by your books, and by report of your own quarter, that the king is in some of your armies. That granted, it may be easy for you to procure his majesty's commands for the disposal of this garrison. Till then, I shall make good the trust reposed in me. As for conditions, if I shall be necessitated, I shall make the best I can. The worst [28]I know, and fear not; if I had, the profession of a soldier had not been begun, nor so long continued by your Excellency's humble servant." Henry Washington.

For three months he withstood the siege, experiencing hunger and hardship, until his Majesty ordered capitulation.

Irving says of this heroic stand, "Those who believe in hereditary virtues may see foreshadowed in the conduct of this Washington of Worcester, the magnanimous constancy of purpose, the disposition to 'hope against hope,' which bore our Washington triumphantly through the darkest days of our revolution."

It appears that the Washingtons were first in war as well as in peace, centuries ago. There was wealth, fame and influence in the family, from generation to generation. Their prominence in the grand hunt of those times proves their high social and public position.

Irvington says, "Hunting came next to war in those days, as the occupation of the nobility and gentry. The clergy engaged in it equally with the laity. The hunting establishment of the Bishop of Durham (who belonged to the Washington family) was on a princely scale. He had his forests, chases and parks, with their train of foresters, rangers and park-keepers. A grand hunt was a splendid pageant, in which all his barons and knights attended him with horse and hound."

Later, the famous English fox-hunting, in which noblemen engaged with great pomp and expense, engaged the attention of the Washingtons. We [29]refer to the fact here, because it will explain certain things connected with the life and times of our George Washington in Virginia.

Everett says, "It may be mentioned as a somewhat striking fact, and one I believe not hitherto adverted to, that the families of Washington and Franklin—the former the great leader of the American Revolution, the latter not second to any of his patriotic associates—were established for several generations in the same central county of Northamptonshire, and within a few miles of each other; the Washingtons at Brighton and Sulgrave, belonging to the landed gentry of the county, and in the great civil war supporting the royal side; the Franklins, at the village of Ecton, living on the produce of a farm of thirty acres, and the earnings of their trade as blacksmiths, and espousing,—some of them, at least, and the father and uncle of Benjamin Franklin among the number,—the principles of the non-conformists. Their respective emigrations, germs of great events, in history, took place,—that of John Washington, the great-grandfather of George, in 1657, to loyal Virginia,—that of Josiah Franklin, the father of Benjamin, about the year 1685, to the metropolis of Puritan New England."

This brief sketch of the Washington family in the mother country must suffice. Its history in our country began in 1657, on the West Bank of the Potomac, about fifty miles from its entrance into Chesapeake Bay, in Westmoreland County. The two brothers, John and Lawrence, purchased an estate of several thousand acres there, and erected thereon a comfortable dwelling. In process of time, John married Miss Anne Pope, and went to reside on Bridge's Creek. Two sons, Lawrence and John, and a daughter, were the fruits of his union. Lawrence, the oldest son, married Mildred Warner, daughter of Colonel Augustus Warner, by whom he had three children, John, Augustine and Mildred. The second son, Augustine, became the father of George Washington. He married Jane [30]Butler, by whom he had four children—Butler, Lawrence, Augustine and Jane. His wife died; and two years thereafter, Mary Ball, a young lady of great beauty, became his second wife. They were married March 6, 1730. Their first child was George, who was born February 22, 1732. Five other children—Betty, Samuel, John Augustine, Charles and Mildred—were added to the family.

John Washington, grandfather of Augustine, distinguished himself in military affairs, and became lieutenant-colonel in the wars against the Indians. He was one of the largest planters in the colony, and became one of the most influential men. In time he became a magistrate and a member of the House of Burgesses. The name of the parish in which he lived—Washington—was derived from him.

Augustine Washington, father of George, lived on Pope's Creek when the latter was born, about one-half mile from the Potomac. The house in which George was born was pulled down or burned before the Revolution.

The site is now designated by a slab, bearing the inscription:

On the 11th of February (Old Style), 1732,
George Washington
Was Born.

The slab was placed there by George Washington Parke Custis—his grandson—sixty-seven years ago. Thirty-six years after he performed the grateful act, he published the following account of it in the Alexandria Gazette:

"In June, 1815, I sailed on my own vessel, the 'Lady of the Lake,' a fine top-sail schooner of ninety tons, accompanied b[31]y two gentlemen, Messrs. Lewis and Grimes, bound to Pope's Creek, in the county of Westmoreland, carrying with us a slab of freestone, having the following inscription:

On the 11th of February, 1732, (Old Style),
George Washington
Was Born.

"Our pilot approached the Westmoreland shore cautiously (as our vessel drew nearly eight feet of water), and he was but indifferently acquainted with so unfrequented a navigation.

"Desirous of making the ceremonial of depositing the stone as imposing as circumstances would permit, we enveloped it in the 'star-spangled banner' of our country, and it was borne to its resting place in the arms of the descendants of four revolutionary patriots and soldiers—Samuel Lewis, son of George Lewis, a captain in Baylor's regiment of horse, and a nephew of Washington; William Grimes, the son of Benjamin Grimes, a gallant and distinguished officer of the Life-guard; the Captain of the vessel, the son of a brave soldier wounded in the battle of Guilford; and George W. P. Custis, the son of John Parke Custis, aid-de-camp to the commander-in-chief before Cambridge and Yorktown.

"We gathered together the bricks of an ancient chimney that once formed the hearth around which Washington in his infancy had played, and constructed a rude kind of a pedestal, on which we reverently placed the FIRST STONE, commending it to the attention and respect of the American people in general, and to the citizens of Westmoreland in particular.

"Bidding adieu to those who had received us so kindly, we re-embarked and hoisted our colors, and being provided with a piece of canon and [32]suitable ammunition, we fired a salute, awakening the echoes that had slept for ages around the hallowed spot; and while the smoke of our martial tribute to the birth-place of the Pater Patriæ still lingered on the bosom of the Potomac, we spread our sails to a favoring breeze, and sped joyously to our homes."

Mr. Paulding, in his life of Washington, describes the place as follows:

"A few scanty relics alone remain to mark the spot, which will ever be sacred in the eyes of posterity. A clump of old decayed fig trees, probably coeval with the mansion, yet exists; and a number of vines and shrubs and flowers still reproduce themselves every year, as if to mark its site, and flourish among the hallowed ruins. The spot is of the deepest interest, not only from its associations, but its natural beauties. It commands a view of the Maryland shore of the Potomac, one of the most majestic of rivers and of its course for many miles towards the Chesapeake Bay. An aged gentlemen, still living in the neighborhood, remembers the house in which Washington was born. It was a low-pitched, single-storied frame building, with four rooms on the first floor, and an enormous chimney at each end on the outside. This was the style of the better sort of houses in those days, and they are still occasionally seen in the old settlements of Virginia."

Irving says that "the roof was steep, and sloped down into low, projecting eaves;" so that an artist's eye can readily see the house as it was.

Let the reader bear in mind that John Washington was the founder of the [33]Washington family in America, and George Washington was his great-grandson.

George was baptized on the 5th of April following, when he was about six weeks old. Mrs. Mildred Gregory acted as godmother, and Mr. Beverly Whiting and Captain Christopher Brooks, godfathers.

When George was four or five years old, his father resolved to move to a plantation on the banks of the Rappahannock River, opposite Fredericksburg.

"There are many advantages in that locality," he remarked to his wife; "besides, the land is better."

"There can't be much fault found with the land anywhere in this part of the country," responded Mrs. Washington. "It needs little but using."

"Very true; but somehow I have taken a great liking to the banks of the Rappahannock," continued Mr. Washington. "The children will like the change, I know."

"That may be; children like change; a novelty just suits them," answered Mrs. Washington. "I have never known them to express dissatisfaction with this place. They are about as happy as children can well be."

"There can be no doubt of that, judging from daily observation," responded her husband, somewhat facetiously. "If a change does not add to the sum total of their happiness, I trust that it will not subtract much from it."

"Understand me," continued Mrs. Washington, "I am not setting myself up [34]in opposition to your plan of removing. It may prove the very best thing for us all. We sha'n't know till we try."

"Well, I think I shall try it," added Mr. Washington.

And he did try it. He removed to the aforesaid locality in the year 1737. The estate was already his own.

The reader must know from what has been said already, that estates of two, three and five thousand acres, in Virginia, at that time, were common. Many wealthy English families, fond of rural life, and coveting ample grounds for hunting and roaming, had settled in the "Old Dominion," where land was cheap as well as fertile. The Washington family was one of them. From the day that John Washington and his brother settled in Virginia, they and their numerous descendants were large landholders. When George was forty-one years of age, just before the stirring scenes of the Revolution, we find him writing to a Mr. Calvert of George Washington Parke Custis:

"Mr. Custis' estate consists of about fifteen thousand acres of land, a good part of it adjoining the city of Williamsburg, and none of it forty miles from that place; several lots in the said city; between two and three hundred negroes, and about eight or ten thousand pounds upon bond, and in the hands of his merchants. This estate he now holds independent of his mother's dower, which will be an addition to it at her death."

Wealthy families at that time lived in expensive style. They kept their "turn-outs and liveried servants," as we call them now, and made an imposing appearance on public occasions. The proprietors were "gentlemen [35]farmers," whose mansions were conducted on a grand scale of hospitality. Everybody was welcome, even Indians.

When George's father removed to the banks of the Rappahannock, one vast, unbroken forest, on either side, met his view. The woodman's axe had opened only here and there a patch of the woods to the light of the sun. These forests abounded with game, and had long been the hunting ground of the red men. The river swarmed with water-fowl of various names and plumage, and often the Indian's birch canoe darted over its waters like a spirit.

The Colony supported a military organization at that time. The Indians were friendly to the English colonists, but they might not continue to be. England and France were friendly to each other, also, yet both had an eye upon the same possessions in the new world. There was no telling how soon a resort to arms might be inevitable. The militia must be maintained against the time of need.

George was almost too young to appreciate the danger when his ears first listened to tales of Indian depredations.

"Several families murdered in cold blood by roving savages," was the news Mr. Washington brought home one day.

"Where? Where?" Mrs. Washington inquired, with evident anxiety.

"A long way from here," her husband replied, "but it shows the murderous spirit of Indians all the same."

"A treacherous race!" remarked Mrs. Washington.


"Yes; treacherous indeed!" her husband replied, "There is no telling what is in store for us, in my opinion."

"There is no more reason for their murdering white men and woman so far away than there is for their doing it near by us," suggested Mrs. Washington.

"None whatever. Revenge, or desire for plunder, prompted the deed, no doubt; and revenge or hope of plunder is just as likely to move them here as there to killing and burning," Mr. Washington said.

Occasional startling news of this kind, discussed in the family, was listened to by George, whose precocity took in the situation well for one so young. Early in life he had a good understanding of Indian character, and of the trouble that might come to the colonists through these savage denizens of the forest. There is good evidence that apprehensions of Indian hostilities filled him with anxiety long before they actually commenced.

At that time, also, negro slavery existed among the colonists. The large estates were worked by slave labor. The Washington family held slaves. Some planters owned several hundred. As there was no question raised about the right or wrong of the slave system, it is probable that George's mind was not exercised upon the subject. He grew up in the midst of the institution without calling in question its rectitude. We mention the fact here, because it was one of the early influences of his ancestry and birth-place which must have been offset by home instructions and the rapid unfolding of a singularly manly character.



It is fortunate that the materials of Washington's early life were preserved by one who was rector of the Mount Vernon parish while members of the family and other friends survived. Rev. M. L. Weems ministered there seventy-five years ago, and he gathered information from a woman who was neighbor to the Washingtons in her childhood, and from John Fitzhugh, who was often with George in his early home. In addition, descendants of the family, who had fondly preserved valuable incidents of their illustrious ancestor's boyhood and manhood, furnished them for his biography by their pastor. We are indebted to Mr. Weems for most of the facts relating to Washington's boyhood.

In the autumn of 1737, Mr. Washington went to the door of a neighbor and relative, leading George by the hand. The woman who related the incident to Mr. Weems was a little girl at that time, and was visiting the family.

"Will you take a walk with us?" inquired George's father, addressing himself to the girl just mentioned, and her cousin, whose name was Washington.

"We are going to take a walk in the orchard," continued Mr. Washington. "It is a fine sight now."

Both of the parties addressed promptly accepted the invitation, [38]delighted to take a stroll among the trees that were bending under their burden of fruit.

A walk of a half-mile brought them to the orchard, where an unusual spectacle awaited them.

"Oh, see the apples!" exclaimed George. "Such a lot of them!" And he clapped his hands and fairly danced in his excitement.

"I never saw such a sight," said the girl who accompanied them.

"It is a spectacle, indeed!" responded Mr. Washington. "It is not often we see so much fruit in one field as we see here."

It was not so much the enormous crop of apples upon the trees, as it was the great quantity on the ground beneath them that attracted George. The winds had relieved the trees of a portion of their burden, and the ground was literally covered with the luscious fruit. George had never beheld such a display of apples, and his young heart bounded with delight over the scene.

They roamed through the orchard for a time, chatting and enjoying the occasion thoroughly, when Mr. Washington rather disturbed the flow of animal spirits by saying,—

"Now, George, look here, my son! Don't you remember when this good cousin of yours (referring to the lad who was with them) brought you that fine large apple last spring, how hardly I could prevail on you to divide it with your brothers and sisters, though I promised you that if you would but do it God would give you plenty of apples this fall."


George made no reply but hung his head in shame. He had not forgotten his selfishness on that occasion, and he was greatly mortified.

His father continued,—

"Now, look up, my son; look up, George! See how richly the blessed God has made good my promise to you. Wherever you turn your eyes, you see the trees loaded with fine fruit; many of them, indeed, breaking down; while the ground is covered with mellow apples, more than you could eat, my son, in all your life-time."

George made no reply. His young companions stood in silence, gazing at him, as if wondering what all this counsel meant. Mr. Washington waited for his son to speak; and just as he was concluding that George had nothing to say for himself, the latter turned manfully to his father, and said:

"Well, pa, only forgive me this time, and see if I am ever stingy any more."

Mr. Washington had a purpose in going to the orchard, and it was well accomplished. His son got one nobler idea into his head, and one nobler resolve into his heart. Henceforth the noble boy would treat selfishness as a foe instead of a friend.

Mr. Washington resorted to the following device to impress his son with a proper conception of God as the Creator of all things. In the spring he carefully prepared a bed in the garden, beside the walk, where George would frequently go for pleasure. When the bed was prepared, he wrote George's name in full in the pulverized earth, and sowed the same with [40]cabbage seed. In due time, of course, the seed appeared in green, thrifty shoots, forming the letters as clearly as they stand in the alphabet. George discovered them one day. He was then seven or eight years old. He stood for a moment in silent wonder.

"Those are letters sure enough," he thought.

Then he read them aloud, "G-E-O-R-G-E W-A-S-H-I-N-G-T-O-N."

With wondering eyes he rushed to the house, and excitedly broke the news.

"Oh, pa, come here! come here!"

"What's the matter, my son? what's the matter?" responded his father.

"Oh, come here, I tell you, pa; come here!" and the boy could scarcely contain himself, so great was his excitement.

"But what is it, my son? Can't you tell me what has happened?"

"Come here, and I'll show you the greatest sight you ever saw in your life!"

By this time he was pulling his father along towards the garden, the latter understanding full well what had happened. Very soon they reached the bed, where the bright, thrifty cabbage plants had spelled the name of GEORGE WASHINGTON in full.

"There, pa!" exclaimed George, pointing to his name in cabbage plants, [41]and exhibiting the greatest astonishment by his appearance. "Did you ever see such a sight in all your life-time?"

"Well, George, it does seem like a curious affair sure enough," his father answered. "But who should make it there, pa? Who made it there?"

"Why, it grew there, of course, my son."

"No, pa! No, no! somebody put it there."

"Then you think it did not grow there by chance?"

"No, indeed, it never did. That couldn't be."

"How is that, my son? Don't it look very much like chance?"

"Why, no, pa; did you ever know anybody's name in a plant bed before?"

"Well, George, might not such a thing happen though I never saw it before?"

"Yes, pa; but I never saw plants grow up so as to make a single letter of my name before. How could they grow up so as to make all the letters of my name! And all standing one after another so as to spell my name exactly—and all so nice and even, too, at top and bottom! Somebody did it. You did it, pa, to scare me, because I am your little boy."

"Well, George, you have guessed right," answered Mr. Washington. "I did do it, but not to scare you, my son, but to teach you a great truth which I wish you to understand. I want to introduce you to your true Father."


"Ain't you my true father, pa?"

"Yes, I am your father, George, as the world calls it, and love you with a father's love. Yet, with all my love for you, I am but a poor father in comparison with your true Father."

"I know well enough whom you mean," continued George. "You mean God, don't you?"

"Yes, I mean Him, indeed, my son. He is your true Father," was Mr. Washington's hearty answer.

George went on with his inquiries, and his father, answered, adding at last:

"Well, then, as you could not believe that chance had made and put together so exactly the letters of your name (though only sixteen), then how can you believe that chance could have made and put together all those millions and millions of things that are now so exactly fitted for your good! Eyes to see with; ears to hear with; nose to smell with; a mouth to eat with; teeth to bite with; hands to handle with; feet to walk with; a mind to think with; a heart to love with; a home to live in; parents to care for you, and brothers and sisters to love you! Why, look at this beautiful world in which you live, with its golden, light to cheer you by day, and its still night to wrap you in sleep when you are too tired to play; its fruits, and flowers and fields of grass and grain; its horses to draw you and cows to give you milk; its sheep to furnish wool to cloth you, and mea[43]t for your food; its sun, moon and stars to comfort you; bubbling springs to quench your thirst; wood to burn that you may be warm in winter; and ten thousand other good things—so many that my son could never number them all, or even think of them! Could chance bring about all these things so exactly as to suit your wants and wishes?"

"No, pa, chance could not do it," answered George, really taking in this new view of the world around him.

"What was it, then, do you think, my son?" continued his father.

"God did it," George replied.

"Yes, George, it is all the work of God, and nobody else," responded his father. "He gives us all."

"Does God give me everything? Don't you give me some things?" George inquired.

"I give you something!" exclaimed his father. "How can I give you anything, George? I who have nothing on earth I can call my own; no, not even the breath I draw!"

"Ain't the house yours, and the garden, and the horses and oxen and sheep?" still inquired George, failing to comprehend the great truth of God's ownership.

"Oh, no, my son, no! Why, you make me shrink into nothing, George, when you talk of all these things belonging to me, who can't even make a grain of sand! How could I give life to th[44]e oxen and horses, when I can't give life even to a fly, my son?"

George was introduced into a new world by this lesson, as his father intended that he should be. His precocious mind grasped, finally, the great idea of his "true Father," and the lesson never had to be repeated.

We have rehearsed this incident somewhat in detail as given by Mr. Weems, because its influence will be found interwoven with George's future private and public life.

Another story told by Mr. Weems is the famous hatchet story, which has been rehearsed to so many children, since that day, to rebuke falsehood and promote truth-telling.

His father made him a present of a hatchet with which George was especially delighted. Of course he proceeded forthwith to try it, first hacking his mother's pea-sticks, and, finally, trying its edge upon the body of a beautiful "English cherry-tree." Without understanding that he was destroying the tree, he chopped away upon it to his heart's content, leaving the bark, if not the solid wood underneath, in a very dilapidated condition. The next morning his father discovered the trespass, and, rushing into the house, under much excitement, he exclaimed:

"My beautiful cherry-tree is utterly ruined. Who could hack it in that manner?"

Nobody knew.


"I would not have taken five guineas for it," he added, with a long-drawn sigh. The words had scarcely escaped from his lips before George appeared with his hatchet.

"George," said his father, "do you know who killed that cherry-tree in the garden?"

George had not stopped to think, until that moment, that he had used his hatchet improperly. His father's question was a revelation to him; and he hung his head in a guilty manner for a moment.

"George, did you do it?" urged his father.

Raising his head, and looking his father fully in the face, he replied:

"I can't tell a lie, pa; you know I can't tell a lie, I did cut it with my hatchet."

Mr. Washington was well-nigh overcome by this frank and honest reply. For a moment he stood spell bound; then recovering himself, he exclaimed:

"Come to my arms, my boy! You have paid for the cherry-tree a thousand times over. Such an act of heroism is worth more to me than a thousand trees!"

Mr. Weems regards this honest confession the out-growth of previous instructions upon the sin of lying and the beauty of truthfulness. He represents Mr. Washington as saying to his son:

"Truth, George, is the loveliest quality of youth. I would rid[46]e fifty miles, my son, to see the little boy whose heart is so honest, and his lips so pure, that we may depend on every word he says."

"But, oh, how different, George, is the case with the boy who is so given to lying that nobody can believe a word he says. He is looked at with aversion wherever he goes, and parents dread to see him come among their children. O George, rather than see you come to this pass, dear as you are to me, I would follow you to your grave."

Here George protested against being charged with lying. "Do I ever tell lies?" he asked.

"No, George, I thank God you do not; and I rejoice in the hope that you never will. At least, you shall never, from me, have cause to be guilty of so shameful a thing. You know I have always told you, and now tell you again, that, whenever by accident you do anything wrong, which must often be the case, as you are but a little boy, without experience or knowledge, never tell a falsehood to conceal it; but come bravely up, and tell me of it; and your confession will merit love instead of punishment."

As we proceed with this narrative, after having enjoyed this glimpse of George's earliest years, the charming lines of Burleigh will find a fitting application.

"By honest work and inward truth
The victories of our life are won,
And what is wisely done in youth
For all the years is wisely done;
[47]The little deeds of every day
Shape that within which lives for aye.
"No thought so buried in the dark
It shall not bear its bloom in light;
No act too small to leave its mark
Upon the young hearts tablet white;
Our grand achievements, secret springs,
Are tempered among trivial things.
"No soul at last is truly great
That was not greatly true at first;
In childhood's play are seeds of fate
Whose flower in manhood's work shall burst.
In the clinched fist of baby Thor
Might seem his hammer clutched for war.
* * * * * * * *
"The firmest tower to heaven up-piled
Hides deepest its foundation-stone;
Do well the duty of the child,
And manhood's task is well begun;
In thunders of the forum yet
Resounds the mastered alphabet."

George was about eight years old when a great excitement arose among the colonists in Virginia, and the fife and drum were heard, to announce that England, the mother country, needed soldiers.

"A regiment of four battalions is called for, by the king, for a [48]campaign in the West Indies," announced Mr. Washington to his son Lawrence, a young man twenty-two years of age.

"A good opportunity for me," answered Lawrence, who possessed much of the military spirit of his ancestors. "Perhaps I can get a commission."

"Perhaps so," responded his father; "your education ought to place you above the common soldier."

Lawrence had just returned from England, where he had spent seven years in study, enjoying the best literary advantages the country could afford.

"Well, I can enlist and then see what can be done," continued Lawrence. "The regiment will be raised at once, and I can soon find out whether there is an appointment for me."

Soon recruiting parties were parading at the sound of fife and drum, and the military spirit was aroused in the hearts of both young and old. The enthusiasm spread and grew like a fire in the wilderness. The colonists were truly loyal to the king, and their patriotism led them, heartily and promptly, into the defence of the English cause in the West Indies against the Spaniards.

Recruiting advanced rapidly, and the regiment was soon raised. Lawrence obtained a captain's commission, and appeared wearing the insignia of his office. Music, drilling, parading, now became the order of the day, and it was a new and exciting scene to George. Soldiers in uniform, armed and equipped for war, marching at the sound of music, captivated his soul. It awakened all the ancestral spirit of chivalry that was in [49]his heart. The sight of his big brother at the head of his company, drilling his men in military tactics, filled him with wonder. Gladly would he have donned a soldier's suit and sailed with the regiment to the West Indies, so wrought upon was his young heart.

In due time the regiment embarked for the West Indies, and George was obliged to part with his noble brother, to whom he had become strongly attached since his return from England. The departure of so many colonists, and the cessation of military display, left George in a serious frame of mind. For the first time in his life he experienced the sensation of loneliness.

However, he had caught the military spirit, and he found relief in playing soldier with his companions. There is no doubt that George inherited somewhat the love and tact for military life for which his English ancestors were renowned; and now that born element of his character was called into active exercise. The recruiting campaign converted him into an amateur soldier.

From that time George found more real pleasure in mimic parades and battles than he found in any other sport. A stick, corn-stalk or broom-handle, answered for gun or sword, and the meadow in front of his father's house became his muster-field. Here Lewis Willis, John Fitzhugh, William Bustle, Langhorn Dade, and other companions, marched and counter-marched, under the generalship of their young commander, George. Soldiering became the popular pastime of the region, in which the boys played the part of the Englishmen and Spaniards better than boys can do it now.

Lawrence served two years under Admiral Vernon in the West Indies campaign, and returned to Virginia in the autumn of 1742. He proved [50]himself a hero in war. Irving says: "He was present at the siege of Carthagena, when it was bombarded by the fleet, and when the troops attempted to escalade the citadel. It was an ineffectual attack; the ships could not get near enough to throw their shells into the town, and the scaling ladders proved too short. That part of the attack, however, with which Lawrence was concerned, distinguished itself by its bravery. The troops sustained, unflinching, a destructive fire for several hours, and at length retired with honor, their small force having sustained a loss of about six hundred in killed and wounded."

Lawrence intended to return to England after a brief stay at home.

"My record will insure me a promotion in the army," he said to his father, who was averse at first to his return.

"Very true; but army life is objectionable in many ways," his father replied. "The honors hardly pay."

"But my experience for two years has fitted me for that service more than for any other, and that is to be thought of," suggested Lawrence.

"Yes; but other avenues to business are always open to young men of spirit," remarked his father. "Nor is it necessary for them to leave the country in order to accomplish a noble purpose."

However, Mr. Washington withdrew his objections to his son's return to the army; though, subsequently, he was pleased that he abandoned the [51]project under the following circumstances.

There lived an educated English gentleman in Fairfax County by the name of William Fairfax. He had charge of a very large estate belonging to his cousin, Lord Fairfax, of England. This William Fairfax had a daughter, Anne, as well educated and accomplished as Lawrence. Mutual respect between Lawrence and Anne ripened into mutual love, and they became engaged. This unexpected episode in the lives of the promising couple changed the plans of Lawrence; and he voluntarily abandoned the idea of returning to the army.

The martial spirit of George did not abate when Lawrence came home from the war; it rather increased than otherwise. For his ears were regaled with many stories of army life, in which bravery, peril, bloodshed, and hairbreadth escapes were strangely mixed. There was a singular fascination in these tales of war to George; and he never tired of listening to them. The more he heard, the more he enjoyed playing soldier. He was constantly learning military tactics, too, from the lips of his brother. Being a bright, intelligent boy, he readily comprehended and appropriated information upon a subject that was so congenial to his heart. Lawrence was impressed by the precocity of his little brother, as well as his tact at soldiering, so that he was all the more gratified to nurture his martial spirit by rehearsing his experience in war. Lawrence was twenty-four years of age, and George but ten, so that the latter looked up to the former somewhat as a son looks up to a father, drinking in his words as words of wisdom, and accepting his experience as that of an officer of rank. Lawrence became his military teacher, really; and the opportunity to George proved a sort of West Point.

Lawrence, and others, too, were very much charmed by George's manly bearing, even before he was ten years old. John Fitzhugh said of him, [52]"He was born a man."

He was very handsome, large of his age, tall and straight, graceful and dignified in his movements. These qualities were so conspicuous as to attract the attention of strangers.

He was very athletic, too, and loved more active sports than playing marbles. He excelled in running, wrestling, leaping, and throwing the bar, sports that were popular at that time. In these things he took the lead.

John Fitzhugh said of him, as a runner: "He ran wonderfully. We had nobody hereabouts that could come near him. There was a young Langhorn Dade, of Westmoreland, a clean-made, light young fellow, a mighty swift runner, too—but then he was no match for George: Langy, indeed, did not like to give it up, and would brag that he had sometimes brought George to a tie. But I believe he was mistaken; for I have seen them run together many a time, and George always beat him easy enough."

He would throw a stone further then any other boy. Col. Lewis Willis, who was one of his boon companions, said that he "had often seen George throw a stone across the Rappahannock, at the lower ferry of Fredericksburg." No other boy could do it.

His great physical strength was early displayed in lifting and carrying burdens.

The sequel will show how well his marked physical development served him in public life. A boy of less muscular power could not have made a general of such endurance under privations and hardships.


Much more relating to the boyhood of George Washington will appear in subsequent chapters. Enough has been said in this chapter to accomplish our purpose.


"We must come to some conclusion before long about Lawrence's education," remarked Mr. Washington to his wife. "It is certain that not much more can be done for him here."

"He deserves and must have something better than the schools of this colony can give him," answered Mrs. Washington. "Besides, it will do the boy good to go from home, and mix in such cultivated society as he will have in England."

They had often discussed the matter of sending Lawrence to England to be educated. The wealthier classes of Virginia were accustomed to send their sons to the mother country for a higher education than was possible at home. Indeed, it was sending them "home" in one sense, for England was their "home." They were only colonists here, where the schools were poor indeed. Neither their good-will nor their money alone could make good schools. They lacked suitable teachers and other facilities, which neither money nor good intentions could furnish.


"He should go, if he goes at all, as soon as possible," continued Mr. Washington. "There is no time to lose when a boy gets to be fifteen years old. Eight years at school there will make him twenty-three when he gets through; and by that time he should be prepared to enter upon some pursuit for life."

"Eight years is a longer time than it is absolutely necessary for him to spend," suggested Mrs. Washington. "Five or six years may be sufficient unless he decides to enter one of the learned professions."

"He can't be too well educated, whether he enters a learned profession or not," responded Mr. Washington. "Too much education is quite as impossible as too much honesty; and I do not expect he will ever have too much of the latter."

"I shall not deny that," replied Mrs. Washington. "I shall rejoice as much as you in the best opportunities he can have. I was only suggesting what might be if absolutely necessary to save time or expense."

Their conclusion was (as stated in the second chapter), to send Lawrence to England as soon as his wardrobe could be made ready, in which determination the lad rejoiced more than his parents ever knew. His ambition for an English education was strong; and, boy-like, he coveted a residence in England for a while.

Within a few weeks he sailed for the mother country, leaving a sensible void in the family. George did not interest himself particularly in the affair, although he might have added an occasional "coo"; for he was only one year old when his big brother left for England. His inexperience was sufficient excuse for his indifference to so important [55]an affair.

George went to school when he was five years of age. A man by the name of Hobby lived in one of his father's tenements, and he served the public in the double capacity of parish sexton and school-master. It is claimed that he was a wounded soldier with a wooden leg, a kind, Christian gentleman, whose very limited education may have qualified him to dig graves and open the house of worship, but not to teach the young. However, he did teach school quite a number of years, and some of his pupils called him "Old Wooden Leg"—a fact that confirms the story of his having but one leg. He could "read, write and cipher" possibly, for that day, but beyond that he made no pretensions. Yet, that was the best school George could have at that time.

"We hope he will have a better one sometime," his father remarked. "I may not be able to send him to England, but I hope we shall see better schools here before many years have passed."

"Mr. Hobby can teach him A, B, C, as well as any body, I suppose," answered Mrs. Washington; and he can make a beginning in reading and writing with him, perhaps.

"Yes, and he may give him a start in arithmetic," added Mr. Washington. "Hobby knows something of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. But a bright boy will run him dry in two or three years."

"Mr. Hobby will do the best he knows how for George or any other boy," continued Mrs. Washington. "He is a good man, and looks after the morals of his scholars; and that is a good deal in educating children."

"Of course it is; it is everything," replied Mr. Washington. "In that [56]respect, Hobby has the confidence of all who know him. He does the very best he can, and the most cultivated people can do no better than that."

George was soon on the very best terms with his teacher. The attraction was mutual. Hobby saw a bright, studious, obedient boy in George, and George saw a kind, loving and faithful teacher in Hobby. In these circumstances commendable progress was immediate in George's career.

One of his biographers says of him in Hobby's school:

"The rapid progress George made in his studies was owing, not so much to his uncommon aptitude at learning, as to the diligence and industry with which he applied himself to them. When other boys were staring out of the window, watching the birds and squirrels sporting among the tree-tops; or sitting idly with their hands in their pockets, opening and shutting their jack-knives, or counting their marbles, or munching apples or corn-dodgers behind their books, or, naughtier still, shooting paper bullets at Hobby's wooden leg; our George was studying with all his might, closing his ears to the buzz of the school-room; nor would he once raise his eyes from his book till every word of his lesson was ready to drop from his tongue's end of its own accord. So well did he apply himself, and so attentive was he to everything taught him, that, by the time he was ten years old, he had learned all that the good old grave-digger knew himself; and it was this worthy man's boast, in after years, that he had laid the foundation of Washington's future greatness. But what Hobby could not teach him at school, George learned at home from his father and mother, who were well educated for those days; and many a long winter evenin[57]g did these good parents spend in telling their children interesting and instructive stories of olden times, of far-off countries and strange people, which George would write down in his copy book in his neatest, roundest hand, and remember ever afterwards."

What this biographer claims was not all the instruction which George received at home. His instruction at Hobby's school was supplemented by lessons in reading, penmanship and arithmetic by his father, who was much better qualified than Hobby to teach the young. Mr. Washington was a wise man, and he saw that George's school would prove far more beneficial to him when enforced by such lessons as he himself could impart at home. Thus Hobby's school really became a force in the education of George, because it was ably supported by the home school. Otherwise that first school which George attended might have proved of little value to him.

George became Mr. Hobby's most important pupil, because he was an example of obedience, application, method and thoroughness.

"George always does his work well," Mr. Hobby would say, exhibiting his writing-book to the school. "Not one blot, no finger-marks, everything neat and clean."

In contrast with some of the dirty, blotted pages in other writing-books, that of George was a marvel of neatness and excellence.

"It is just as easy to do the best you can as it is to do poorly," Mr. Hobby continued, by way of rebuke and encouragement to dull and careless scholars. "George does not have to work any harder to be thorough than some of you do to be scarcely passible. He is a little more careful, [58]that is all."

His writing-book, held up to the view of the school with the one most badly defaced, honored George's thoroughness, and sharply reproved the other boy's carelessness. Mr. Hobby sought to arouse dull scholars by encouragement full as much as he did by punishment. Hence, George's neat, attractive writing-book, contrasted with one of the opposite qualities, became a stimulus to endeavor. All could keep their fingers clean if they would, even if they had to go to the banks of the Rappahannock to wash them; and no pupil was fated to blot his book, as Mr. Hobby very plainly showed; so that George's example was a constant benediction to the school.

"The scholar who does as well as he can in one thing will do as well as he can in another," said Mr. Hobby. "George has the best writing-book in school, and he is the best reader and speller. It is because his rule is to do the best he can."

It was not expected that George would fail in spelling. He did fail occasionally on a word, it is true, but so seldom that his schoolmates anticipated no failure on his part. In spelling-matches, the side on which he was chosen was expected to win. If all others failed on a word, George was supposed to be equal to the occasion.

"Well, George, we shall be obliged to depend on you to help us out of this difficulty," Mr. Hobby had frequent occasion to say, when all eyes would turn to George for the solution.

"There is a thousand times more enjoyment in doing things well than there is in doing them poorly," Mr. Hobby said. "The happiest boy in [59]this school is the boy who is thorough in his studies."

The pupils understood the remark perfectly. It was not necessary that their teacher should say whether he meant a particular boy or not. They made their own application. The boy who does his work well is not hid in a corner. It is impossible to hide him.

Yet, George was at home on the play-ground. He loved the games and sports of his school-days. No boy enjoyed a trial at wrestling, running or leaping, better than he did. He played just as he studied—with all his might. He aspired to be the best wrestler, runner and leaper in school. William Bustle was his principal competitor. Many and many a time they were pitted against each other in a race or wrestle.

"George is too much for him," was the verdict of Lewis Willis and Langhorn Dade and others.

"In a race George will always win," remarked John Fitzhugh. "He runs like a deer."

"And he wrestles like a man," said Lewis Willis. "No boy is so strong in his arms as he is. I am nowhere when he once gets his long arms around me. It's like getting into a vice."

"William is about a match for him, though," suggested Lewis Willis, referring to William Bustle. "George has the advantage of him in being taller and heavier."

"And quicker," suggested Willis. "He is spry as a cat."

"Old Wooden Leg was about right when he said that the boy who would [60]write and spell well would do everything else well," remarked Langhorn Dade. "It is true of George, sure."

So George was master of the situation on the play-ground. By common consent the supremacy was conceded to him. He was first in frolic, as, years thereafter, he was "first in war."

When the excitement of recruiting for the campaign against the Spaniards in the West Indies prevailed, and George's military ardor was aroused, he proposed to convert the play-ground into a muster-field, and make soldiers of his schoolmates.

"Let us have two armies, English and Spanish," he said. "I will command the English and William (William Bustle) the Spanish." And so they recruited for both armies. Drilling, parading, and fighting, imparted a warlike appearance to the school-grounds. All other sports were abandoned for this more exciting one, and Mr. Hobby's pupils suddenly became warriors.

"The Spaniards must be conquered and driven out of English territory," shouted George to his men.

"The Spaniards can't be expelled from their stronghold," shouted back their defiant commander, William Bustle. "You advance at your peril."

"You resist at your peril," replied George. "The only terms of peace are surrender, SURRENDER!"

"Spaniards never surrender!" shouted General Bustle; and his men supplemented his defiant attitude with a yell. "We are here to fight, [61]not to surrender!"

"Forward! march," cried the English general in response to the challenge: and the hostile forces, with sticks and corn-stalks, waged mimic warfare with the tact and resolution of veterans. Charges, sieges and battles followed in quick succession, affording great sport for the boys, who were, unconsciously, training for real warfare in the future.

William Bustle was the equal of George in ability and skill to handle his youthful army, but the latter possessed a magnetic power that really made him commander-in-chief of Hobby's school. He was regarded as the military organizer of these juvenile forces, and hence the meritorious author of their greatest fun.

One of the stories that has come down to us from George's school-days is honorable to him as a truth-telling boy. A difficulty arose among several boys in school, and it grew into a quarrel. Three or four of George's companions were engaged in the melee, and some hard blows were given back and forth. Other boys were much wrought upon by the trouble, and allowed their sympathies to draw them to the side of one party or the other. Thus the school was divided in opinion upon the question, each party blaming the other with more or less demonstration.

"What is this that I hear about a quarrel among you, boys?" inquired Master Hobby, on learning of the trouble. "Dogs delight to bark and bite."

The boys made no answer, but looked at each other significantly, some of them smiling, others frowning. Mr. Hobby continued:


"Is it true that some of my boys have been fighting?"

No one answered. Evidently Mr. Hobby knew more about the affair than any of them supposed.

"Well, I am not surprised that you have nothing to say about it," added Mr. Hobby. "There is not much to be said in favor of fighting. But I must know the truth about it. How is it, William (addressing William Bustle), what do you know about it?"

William glanced his eye over the school-room and hesitated, as if the question put him into a tight place. He had no desire to volunteer information.

"Speak out," urged his teacher; "we must know the truth about it. I fear that this was not a sham fight from all I can learn. Did you fight?"

"Yes, sir, I did my part," William finally answered with considerable self-possession.

"Your part?" repeated Mr. Hobby, inquiringly. "Who assigned such a part to you?"

"Nobody but myself. I don't like to stand and look on when boys are abused."

"Don't? eh! I wish you would act on that principle when you see some lessons in your class abused, and come to the rescue by learning them. That would be acting to some purpose." This was a sharp rejoinder by the teacher; and William, as well as the other boys, understood its [63]application.

"But that talk is neither one thing nor another, William," continued Mr. Hobby. "Waste no more time in this way, but let us have the truth at once. Be a man now, though you were not when engaged in a quarrel with your companions."

William was now reassured by his master's tone, and he proceeded to give his version of the affair. His statement was simply a vindication of his side of the trouble, and Mr. Hobby so regarded it.

"Now, Lewis (addressing Lewis Willis), we will hear what you have to say," continued Mr. Hobby. "You were engaged in this disgraceful affair, I believe."

Lewis admitted that he was, but he hesitated about replying.

"Well, let us have it, if you have anything to say for yourself. There is not much to be said for boys who fight."

Lewis mustered courage enough to tell his story, which was as one-sided as that of William. He presented his side of the difficulty as well as he could, whereupon Mr. Hobby remarked:

"Both of you cannot be right. Now, I would like to know how many of you think that William is right. As many scholars as think that William's statement is correct may raise their hands."

Several hands went up.

"Those who think that Lewis is right may raise their hands."


Several hands were raised. George did not vote.

"Did no one attempt to prevent or reconcile this trouble?" inquired Mr. Hobby—a question that was suggested by the facts he had learned.

"George did," answered one of the smaller boys.

"Ah! George tried to keep the peace, did he? That was noble! But he did not succeed?" Mr. Hobby added, by way of inquiry.

"No, sir," replied the lad. "They did not mind him."

"Well, I think we will mind him now, and hear what he says," responded the teacher. "A boy who will plead for peace when others fight deserves to be heard; and I think we can depend upon his version of the affair. Now, George (turning to George Washington), shall we hear what you have to say about this unfortunate trouble?"

George hesitated for a moment, as if he would gladly be excused from expressing his opinion, when Mr. Hobby encouraged him by the remark:

"I think we all shall be glad to learn how the quarrel is regarded by a peace-maker."

George hesitated no longer, but hastened to give an account of the affair. He did not agree with either of the boys who had spoken, but discovered blame upon both sides, which was a correct view of the case.

"And you interposed and tried to reconcile the angry parties?" inquired [65]Mr. Hobby.

"I tried to," modestly answered George, as if conscious that his efforts were of little avail with the belligerents.

"Your effort is just as commendable as it would have been if it had proved successful," responded Mr. Hobby in a complimentary manner. "And now, I want to know how many of my scholars, girls and boys, agree with George. You have heard his story. As many of you as agree with George may signify it by raising your hands."

There was a prompt and large array of hands.

"Those who do not agree with George may raise their hands." Only three or four hands went up.

"I agree with George," added Mr. Hobby. "I think he has given us a reliable account of the trouble; and you all ought to be ashamed of yourselves that you did not heed his advice, and refuse to quarrel. I shall take time to consider my duty in the circumstances; meanwhile the fighting boys may reflect upon their disgrace."

This incident presents two qualities of George's character, always prominent from his earliest school-days. He was known as a truth-teller. His word could be depended upon. He would not tell a falsehood to shield his most intimate companion. His word was so reliable that when he gave an account of the quarrel, not a few of the scholars accepted it simply because it was the statement of truth-telling George. Even several whose sympathies were strongly with William or Lewis finally voted for George's version. It was their confidence in his adherence to truth that settled their opinion.


George was often called a "peace-maker." Mr. Hobby called him so. His associates and their parents called him so. There could be no hard words or quarrels among his schoolmates with his consent. Sometimes an angry boy would charge him with being a "coward" because he always pleaded for peace; but his accuser knew full well that George was no "coward." There was not a braver boy in that "field-school" than he. He proved his bravery by rebuking falsehood and fighting among his class-mates. A cowardly boy yields to the ruling spirit around him; but George never did, except when that spirit was in the interest of peace.

Soon after the death of George's father, of which we shall speak particularly in another place, his connection with Mr. Hobby's school was severed.

"How would you like to go to Mr. Williams' school at Bridge's Creek, George?" his mother inquired. "Mr. Williams is an excellent teacher, I suppose, the very best there is in Virginia."

"I should like it," George answered. "Can I go?"

"I have been thinking of it," his mother responded. "You can live with your brother Augustine; the school is not far from his house."

"Shall I go soon?" asked George.

"Yes, as soon as you can get ready. You are at an age now when you must attend to the higher branches of knowledge, if ever."

"What shall I study?" inquired George.


"Arithmetic, of course, and I have been thinking of book-keeping and surveying, very important studies for planters and everybody else in these parts."

"Then you mean I shall be a planter?" George inquired.

"Yes, there is not much but a planter that you can be in this State; and a good planter may be as useful and honored as a good merchant or lawyer."

"I would as soon be a planter as anything else," continued George "and I will try to make a good one."

"That is the main thing," responded his mother. "Planter, merchant or lawyer, become the best there is, and you will be both prospered and honored. You have learned about all you can at Mr. Hobby's school; it is time to go up higher."

"That will suit me as well as it will you," replied George. "I do not object to going up higher."

"Some boys act as if they do," rejoined Mrs. Washington; "but I hope you will never belong to that class. Do the best you can in every place, and you will never be ashamed of your conduct."

Within a few weeks George found himself a member of Mr. Williams' school, and a resident of his brother Augustine's family. Arithmetic and book-keeping engaged his attention at once, and, after a few months, surveying was added to his regular studies.


Mr. Williams was a thorough instructor, and believed that scholars should master one branch of study before they took up another. He paid much attention to reading, spelling and penmanship, encouraging his pupils to place a high value upon these common, but fundamental, studies.

"You are a good mathematician, George, and surveying will come easy to you," remarked Mr. Williams. "Surveyors will be in great demand in this country before it is many years older."

"I should like to understand it," replied George, "and I mean to understand it before I have done going to school."

"And the sooner you commence the study of it the better it will be for you," added Mr. Williams. "You are old enough, and sufficiently advanced to pursue it successfully. By and by you can survey the fields about here, by way of practising the art; and you will enjoy it hugely. It will be better than play."

"Better than playing soldier?" said George inquiringly, and in a tone of pleasantry. He had already organized the boys in Mr. William's school into two armies, and more than one mimic battle had been fought.

"Yes, better than any sham thing," answered Mr. Williams. "It will be study and diversion together—work and play—improving mind and body at the same time."

"I see, I see," responded George. "I can abandon soldiering for that." But he never did. There was too great fascination about military tactics to allow of that. He devoted himself to surveying with commendable [69]application and rapid progress; but he continued, to some extent, the chief sport of his school-days—mimic war.

George was not more than thirteen or fourteen years of age when he surveyed the land about the school-house. He was the first pupil in Mr. Williams' school who had performed such a practical piece of work, and his school-mates were deeply interested in his exploit. He ranked high as a scholar, and his manly bearing made him appear several years older than he was. He led Mr. Williams' school, as he did that of Mr. Hobby, in scholarship, behavior and physical prowess. He seemed born to lead, and his associates were content to have it so.

One of his biographers speaks as follows of his first efforts at surveying:

"When he had advanced so far in his study as to give him some idea of the proper use and handling of the chain and compass, the two principal instruments employed in this art, he began to put his knowledge into practice by taking surveys of the farms lying in the immediate neighborhood of his school-house.

"Assisted by his school-mates, he would follow up and measure off, with the help of his long steel chain, the boundary lines between the farms, such as fences, roads, and water-courses; then those dividing the different parts of the same farm; determining at the same time, with the help of his compass, their various courses, their crooks and windings, and the angles formed at their points of meeting or intersection. This would enable him to get at the shape and size not only of each farm, but of every meadow, field and wood composing it. This done, he would make a map or drawing on paper of the land surveyed, whereon would be clearly traced the lines dividing the differen[70]t parts with the name and number of acres of each attached, while on the opposite page he would write down the long and difficult tables of figures by which these results had been reached. All this he would execute with as much neatness and accuracy as if it had been left with him to decide thereby some gravely disputed land-claim."

Irving says of him as a surveyor: "In this he schooled himself thoroughly; making surveys about the neighborhood, and keeping regular field-books, in which the boundaries and measurements of the fields surveyed were carefully entered, and diagrams made with a neatness and exactness, as if the whole related to important land transactions instead of being mere school exercises. Thus, in his earliest days, there was perseverance and completeness in all his undertakings. Nothing was left half done, or done in a hurried and slovenly manner. The habit of mind thus cultivated continued through life; so that however complicated his tasks and overwhelming his cares, in the arduous and hazardous situations in which he was often placed, he found time to do everything, and to do it well. He had acquired the magic of method, which of itself works wonders."

One day a dispute arose between two pupils respecting a chapter of Virginia's early history—Captain Smith and Pocahontas.

"She saved his life," exclaimed one.

"Very true; but she was not the daughter of King Opechancanough, as you say," replied the other.

"Whose daughter was she, then?"


"She was Powhattan's daughter; and her father was going to kill Captain Smith."

"No, she was not Powhattan's daughter; I tell you that Opechancanough was her father," rejoined the other with some warmth.

"And I tell you that Powhattan was her father, and Opechancanough was her uncle. If you can't recite history more correctly than that you had better keep still. Anybody knows that Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhattan; and he was the greatest Indian chief in Virginia."

"And you are a conceited, ignorant fellow, to suppose that nobody knows anything but yourself."

And so the dispute became more heated, until both parties were greatly excited; whereupon a listening school-mate called out:

"Leave it to George; he will settle it."

"Agreed!" responded one.

"Agreed!" shouted the other.

And George was called in to settle the controversy, both parties acquiescing in his decision.

George often acted as umpire among the boys in Mr. Williams' school. Sometimes, as in the above instance, both parties chose him for umpire. Their confidence in his word and judgment led them to submit cases of trial or controversy to him, whether relating to studies or games. Many [72]disputes were thus brought to a speedy termination by his discriminating and candid judgment.

Mr. Weems says of him at this time:

"He carried with him his virtues, his zeal for unblemished character, his love of truth and detestation of whatever was false and base. A gilt chariot with richest robes and liveried servants could not have befriended him so well; for, in a short time, so completely had his virtues secured the love and confidence of the boys, his word was just as current among them as a law. A very aged gentleman, formerly a school-mate of his, has often assured me that nothing was more common, when the boys were in high dispute about a question of fact, than for some little shaver among the mimic heroes, to call out:

"'Well, boys, George Washington was there; George Washington was there; he knows all about it; and if he don't say it was so, why, then we will give it up.'

"'Done,' exclaimed the adverse party.

"Then away they would run to hunt for George. Soon as his verdict was heard, the difficulty was settled, and all hands would return to play again."

Another biographer, Mrs. Kirkland, says, "It is recorded of his school days that he was always head boy; and whether this report be authentic or not, we can easily imagine the case to have been so, not exclusively by means of scholarship, perhaps, but by the aid of certain other [73]qualities, very powerful in school as elsewhere, and which he so exhibited in after life. His probity, courage, ability and high sense of justice were probably evident, even then, for there is every reason to believe their foundations were laid very early. The boys would, therefore, respect him, and choose him for an umpire in their little troubles, as they are said to have done.... He was famous for hindering quarrels, and perhaps his early taste for military manoeuvers was only an accidental form of that love of mathematical combinations (the marked trait of Napoleon's earlier years) and the tendency to order, promptness and thoroughness, which characterized him so strikingly in after life. The good soldier is by no means a man with a special disposition to fight."

George was such an example of order, neatness, thorough scholarship and exact behavior in Mr. Williams' school that we shall devote the next chapter to these qualities.


"These are finely done," remarked Lawrence Washington to George, after an examination of the maps, copy-books, and writing-books, which George brought with him from Mr. Williams' school. "It would be difficult for any one to excel them."

"It takes considerable time to do them," remarked George.


"It takes time to do anything well," responded Lawrence, "but the habit is worth everything to you."

"That is what Mr. Williams says," answered George. "He talks to the boys often about doing things well."

"And no matter what it is that a boy is doing, if it is nothing more than chopping wood, it pays to do it as well as he can," added Lawrence. "Mr. Williams is an excellent teacher."

"I think so," responded George. "He makes everything so plain that we can understand him; and he makes us feel that we shall need all we learn most when we become men."

"Well, if you learn that last lesson thoroughly it will be of great service to you every day," remarked Lawrence. "Many boys never stop to think that they will soon be men, and so they are not fitted for the duties of manhood when it comes."

"Mr. Williams talks much about method in study and work," continued George. "He says that many persons accomplish little or nothing in life because they are neither systematic nor thorough in what they do. 'A place for everything and everything in its place,' is one of his frequent remarks."

"And you must have produced these maps and copy-books under that rule," suggested Lawrence. "They are as excellent in orderly arrangement as they are in neatness."


George spent his vacation with Lawrence, who really had charge of his education after Mr. Washington died. Lawrence married the daughter of William Fairfax three months after the death of his father, and settled on the plantation which his father bequeathed to him, near Hunting Creek, and to which Lawrence gave the name of Mount Vernon, in honor of Admiral Vernon, under whom he did military service in the West Indies, and for whom he cherished profound respect.

Lawrence was strongly attached to his young brother in whom he discovered the elements of a future noble manhood. He delighted to have him at his Mount Vernon home, and insisted that he should spend all his time there when out of school. It was during a vacation that Lawrence examined his maps and copy-books, as narrated, George having brought them with him for his brother to inspect.

One of George's copy-books attracted much attention in school, because it was unlike that of any other scholar, and it was an original idea with him.

"What do you call it, George, and what do you ever expect to do with it?" inquired a school-mate.

"You can call it what you please," replied George. "I expect that it will be of great service to me when I become a man."

"That is looking a long way ahead, it seems to me," rejoined his companion. "I prefer to know what will be of service to me now. You can scarcely tell what will be best for you when you become a man."

"I know that what I am copying into that book will be of use to me in manhood, because men use these forms. I call it a 'Book of Forms' for [76]the want of a better name." And George's words denoted entire confidence in his original idea of the use of forms.

"Well, the book looks well anyway," continued his school-mate holding the copy-book up to view. "As to that, I should like to see any work of yours that does not look well. But what are these forms, anyhow?"

"They are receipts, bills of exchange, notes of hand, deeds, wills, land-warrants, bonds and useful forms of that kind," answered George. "If I have them here in this book together, they will be convenient for use ten or twenty years hence."

"Yes, I see; you can run a lawyer's office on that book," suggested his friend.

"A farmer's office, you mean. A farmer may find use for every form there is in that book; and if he does not, it will be no disadvantage to him to understand them."

"You are right, George, as you are usually. I shall know where to go for a form when I want to make my will," remarked his companion in a complimentary way.

"And I shall be glad to serve you without charge provided you remember me," responded George. "I predict that many men will live who will be glad to consult this book to help them out of difficulties."

Perhaps the forethought and sagacity of George were foreshadowed more clearly by this copy-book than by any other. Its reference to the necessities of manhood was so plain and direct as to prove that he kept [77]preparation for that period of life constantly in view. This book has been carefully preserved, and may be seen to-day at Mount Vernon.

Another manuscript volume of his which has been preserved is a book of arithmetical problems. It was customary, when George attended school, to write the solution of problems in arithmetic in a blank-book—not the result merely, but the whole process of solution. Sometimes the rules were copied, also, into the book. It was a very good practice for a studious, persevering, conscientious boy like George; but the method was a wretched one for certain indolent pupils to whom study was penance; for this class often relied upon these manuscript volumes to furnish problems solved, instead of resorting to hard study. They were passed around among the idle scholars clandestinely, to help them over hard places without study. Mr. Williams forbade the deceitful practice, and punished pupils who were discovered in the cheat; nevertheless, poor scholars continued to risk punishment rather than buckle down to persistent study. There is no doubt that George's book of problems, copied in his clear, round hand, did considerable secret service in this way. But the preparation of it was an excellent discipline for George. Neatness, application, perseverance, thoroughness, with several other qualities, were indispensable in the preparation of so fair a book.

In another copy-book George displayed a talent for sketching and drawing, which elicited Mr. Williams' commendation.

"That portrait is well executed," he said. "You have a talent in that direction, evidently; the likeness is good." It was the face of one of the scholars, drawn with his pen.

"Have you practised much in this art?" continued Mr. Williams.


"No, sir; only a little, for amusement."

"Just to see what you could do?" added Mr. Williams, inquiringly.

"Yes, that is all."

"Well, I advise you to cultivate your talent for drawing. These animals are well done, too. Practise will give you an ability in this line, which may prove of real service to you in future years."

George had drawn animals, also, in the book, and he had given wings to some birds with a flourish of his pen, showing both taste and tact in the use of the pen. George was not a boy who believed in flourishes, except those executed in ink. His interest in the art of penmanship drew his attention to these as ornamental and ingenious.

"A facile use of the pen will always be serviceable to you," he said to George. "No one can become too skilful in wielding it. But it requires much careful practise."

"I have discovered that," answered George. "I do not expect to excel in the art of penmanship."

"You may, with your application and perseverance," responded his teacher. "'Perseverance conquers all things,' it is said, and I believe it."

"But I have not time for everything," remarked George. "Odd moments are all the time I can devote to such things."


"And odd moments have done much for some boys," added his teacher. "Fragments of time well improved have made some men illustrious."

"It will take larger fragments of time than I have to make me illustrious," suggested George, dryly.

"Perhaps not; you are not authorized to come to such a conclusion. There are too many facts known to warrant it. Your industry and resolution are equal to it."

George accepted the compliment in silence with his usual modesty, considerably encouraged by his teacher's words to persevere in doing things well.

This copy-book, containing sketches of his companions and pen-pictures of birds and beasts, has been carefully preserved with others. It is a valuable relic, too, as showing that George was not always the sedate, serious boy he has generally been represented to be; for some of these sketches border upon the comical, and evidently were intended to bring a smile over the faces of his school-mates. Mixed with his usually grave and practical way of doing things, they show more of the cheerful, roguish boy than is accorded to George by writers in general.

Another copy-book contains many extracts, in prose and poetry, which particularly interested George at the time. He was in the habit of preserving in this way choice bits of prose and poetry for future use. They were copied in his clear, fair handwriting, with every i dotted and every t crossed, and every comma and period nicely made and placed.

All these copy books, with other proofs of George's thorough scholarship [80]and progress, can now be seen at Mount Vernon, where he lived and died.

Irving says of these: "His manuscript school-books still exist, and are models of neatness and accuracy. One of them, it is true, a ciphering book, preserved in the library at Mount Vernon, has some school-boy attempts at calligraphy; nondescript birds, executed with the flourish of a pen, or profiles of faces, probably intended for those of his school-mates; the rest are all grave and business-like. Before he was thirteen years of age he had copied into a volume forms for all kinds of mercantile and legal papers, bills of exchange, notes of hand, deeds, bonds and the like. This early self-tuition gave him throughout life a lawyer's skill in drafting documents, and a merchant's exactness in keeping accounts; so that all the concerns of his various estates, his dealings with his domestic stewards and foreign agents, his accounts with governments, and all the financial transactions, are to this day to be seen posted up in books, in his own handwriting, monuments of his method and unvaried accuracy."

There was yet another manuscript more important, really, than those of which we have spoken. It contained one hundred and ten rules for regulating his conduct, to which he gave the title, "Rules of Behavior in Company and Conversation."

When Lawrence Washington examined this manuscript he remarked to his wife, "It is remarkable that a boy of his years should make such a collection of rules as this. They are creditable to a much older head than his."

"They are not original with him, are they?" responded his wife.


"I think not; they must be a collection which he has made from time to time. It would not be possible for a boy of his age to produce such a code of manners and morals out of his own brain. Hear this," and he proceeded to read some of the "Rules."

"Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company."

"Good counsel, surely, and well expressed," remarked Mrs. Washington.

"It shows a degree of thoughtfulness and desire to be correct, beyond his years," added Lawrence. "The other rules are no less practical and significant." He continued to read:

"Every action in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those present.

"Speak not when others speak; sit not when others stand. Speak not when you should hold your peace. Walk not when others stop."

"That is paying attention to little things with a will," remarked Mrs. Washington.

"And that is what impresses me," responded Lawrence. "Most boys think that such small matters are beneath their notice, when attention to these secures attention to more important things."

"Very true," replied his wife; "and it certainly shows a desire to be correct in behavior that is commendable."

"And as unusual as it is commendable," added Lawrence. "It is such a [82]manly view of life as we seldom meet with, except in ripe manhood."

"Well, read more of his rules," suggested Mrs. Washington.

Lawrence continued to read, "In your apparel, be modest, and endeavor to accommodate yourself to nature rather than to procure admiration; keep to the fashion of your equals, such as are civil and orderly, with respect to times and places.

"Wherein you reprove another, be unblamable yourself, for example is better than precept.

"When a man does all he can, though it succeeds not well, blame not him that did it."

"Not many men reduce these rules to practise very thoroughly," remarked Lawrence. "To square one's life by these rules requires uncommon circumspection and decision. Few are equal to it."

"I think that George comes as near doing it as any one," suggested Mrs. Washington.

"I was just thinking of that," replied Lawrence. "I am not sure but his manly bearing is owing to these rules. No one can think enough of them to write them down carefully in a book without being more or less influenced by their lessons."

"It would seem so," remarked Mrs. Washington; "but are there no rules relating to our higher duties to God among the whole number?"


"Yes, several; but you should remember that these are rules of behavior in company and conversation alone, and not our religious duties. But here is one rule that lies in that direction":

"Labor to keep in your heart that little spark of celestial fire called conscience."

"And here is another":

"If you speak of God or His attributes, let it be seriously, in reverence; and honor and obey your parents."

"George has done that to perfection," remarked Lawrence. "Profanity and disobedience, even in their least offensive form, he was never guilty of. And here is still another rule having reference to our higher obligations, which he has observed with commendable carefulness":

"Let your recreations be manful, not sinful."

"I think it is remarkable, as you say, that one so young as George should make such a collection of rules," said Mrs. Washington. "May it not be that a remarkable future is before him?"

"It may be, and I am inclined to think it will be," answered Lawrence. "If a bright spring-time is the harbinger of an ample harvest, such a youth must foreshadow noble manhood."

Thus were George's "Rules of Behavior in Company and Conversation" discussed at Mount Vernon, and the young author of them was more admired in consequence.


We will furnish our readers with more of his "Rules," since all of them are important, and had much to do, doubtless, with the formation of George's character.

"Speak not of doleful things in time of mirth, nor at the table; speak not of melancholy things, as death and wounds; and if others mention them, change, if you can, the discourse. Tell not your dreams but to your intimate friend.

"Break not a jest when none take pleasure in mirth; laugh not loud, nor at all, without occasion; deride no man's misfortune, though there seem to be some cause.

"Speak not injurious words, neither in jest nor earnest; scoff at none, although they give occasion.

"Seek not to lessen the merits of others; neither give more than due praise.

"Go not thither where you know not whether you shall be welcome.

"Give not advice without being asked; and when desired, do it briefly.

"Reprove not the imperfections of others, for that belongs to parents, masters and superiors.

"Gaze not on the marks and blemishes of others, and ask not how they came. What you may speak in secret to your friend, deliver not before others.


"Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.

"When another speaks, be attentive yourself, and disturb not the audience. If any hesitate in his words, help him not, nor prompt him, without being desired; interrupt him not, nor answer him, until his speech be ended.

"Treat with men at right times about business, and whisper not, in the company of others.

"Be not in haste to relate news if you know not the truth thereof.

"Be not curious to know the affairs of others, neither approach those that speak in private.

"Undertake not what you cannot perform, but be careful to keep your promise.

"Speak not evil of the absent, for it is unjust.

"Make no show of taking delight in your victuals. Feed not with greediness. Cut your food with a knife, and lean not on the table; neither find fault with what you eat.

"Be not a flatterer; neither play with any one that delights not to be played with.

"Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.


"It is good manners to prefer them to whom we speak before ourselves, especially if they are above us; with whom in no sort ought we to begin.

"Strive not with your superiors in an argument, but always submit your judgment to others with modesty.

"Undertake not to teach your equal in the art him self professes, for it is immodest and presumptuous.

"Before you advise or find fault with any one, consider whether it ought to be in public or in private; presently, or at some other time; in what terms to do it; and, in reproving, show no sign of anger, but do it with sweetness and mildness.

"Use no reproachful language against any one, neither curse nor revile.

"Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the injury of any.

"Play not the peacock, looking everywhere about you to see if you be well-decked; if your shoes fit well; if your pantaloons sit neatly, and clothes handsomely.

"Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for it is a sign of a kindly and commendable nature; and in all cases of passion, admit reason to govern.

"Utter not base and frivolous things amongst grave and learned men, nor very difficult questions or subjects among the ignorant, nor things hard to believe."


These are only a part of the Rules which George adopted for his instruction and guidance through life. In weighing them, the reader must feel the force of Everett's remarks, who said of them, "Among his manuscripts still in existence, there is one, written under thirteen years of age, which deserves to be mentioned as containing striking indications of early maturity. The piece referred to is entitled 'Rules of Behavior in Company and Conversation.' These rules are written out in the form of maxims, to the number of one hundred and ten." "They form," says Mr. Sparks, "a minute code of regulations for building up the habits of morals and manners and good conduct in very young persons." Whether they were taken in a body from some manual of education, or compiled by Washington himself from various books, or framed from his own youthful observation and reflection, is unknown. The first is, perhaps, the more probable supposition. If compiled by a lad under thirteen, and still more, if the fruit of his own meditations, they would constitute a most extraordinary example of early prudence and thoughtfulness. Some of the rules which form a part of this youthful code of manners and morals had their influence over Washington, and gave a complexion to his habits through life.

That a boy of twelve or thirteen years should compile such a code of manners and morals, shows, unmistakably, the bent of his mind. We discover valuable elements of character in the formation and execution of such a purpose. It is equally true, also, that his book of prose and poetical extracts reveals his taste and aims no less surely than his "Rules." The following extract, taken from that manuscript volume, tells about the same story of the boy as his "Rules of Behavior" tell:—

"These are the things, which, once possessed,
Will make a life that's truly blest;
[88]A good estate on healthy soil,
Not got by vice, nor yet by toil;
Round a warm fire a pleasant joke,
With chimney ever free from smoke;
A strength entire, a sparkling bowl,
A quiet wife, a quiet soul;
A mind, as well as body, whole;
Prudent simplicity, constant friends,
A diet which no art commends,
A merry night without much drinking,
A happy thought without much thinking.
Each night by quiet sleep made short,
A will to be but what thou art:
Possessed of these, all else defy,
And neither wish nor fear to die;
These are the things, which, once possessed,
Will make a life that's truly blest."

His strong love for simple, pure, domestic life appears in this selection—a love for which he was distinguished to the day of his death.

The school-days of George ended one month before he was sixteen years of age. Mr. Hobby and Mr. Williams were his only teachers, except his parents. "Not very rare opportunities," the reader will say. No larger opportunities for mental culture now would be considered meagre indeed. But he made the most of what he had, so that his small advantages did more for him than the best opportunities do for less industrious and noble boys.


A strong bond united him to his teacher and schoolmates. It was not so much his scholarship as his character that endeared him to both teacher and pupils. The secret of it was found in his heart rather than his head. His school-mates were moved to tears on parting with him, and so was his teacher. And those tears were a sincere tribute to the unsullied character of the boy.


Certain incidents occurred in the young life of our hero, which so forcibly illustrate leading elements of his character that we stop here to record them.

His father came home one day so sick that he took to his bed at once. It was a severe attack of an old complaint, which he had vainly tried to remove.

"You must have the doctor," said Mrs. Washington, somewhat alarmed by the severity of the attack.

"Wait a little, and see," replied her husband; "perhaps the usual remedies will relieve me." He kept remedies in the house for such attacks, and Mrs. Washington soon administered them. But the relief was only partial, and a servant was sent for the doctor.


"Go in haste," said Mrs. Washington, as Jake mounted the horse and galloped away. "Tell the doctor to come as soon as possible," were the last words that Jake heard as he dashed forward. Mrs. Washington was thoroughly alarmed. Returning to her husband's bedside, she said:

"I want to send for George."

"Not now," her husband answered. "I think the doctor will relieve me. Besides, George has only just got there, and it is not well to disturb him unnecessarily."

George had gone to visit friends at Chotana, about twenty miles distant, where he proposed to spend his vacation.

Mrs. Washington yielded to her husband's desire, although intense anxiety filled her heart. She seemed to have a presentiment that it was her husband's last sickness. Back and forth she went from door to bedroom, and from bedroom to door, awaiting with tremulous emotion the coming of the physician, at the same time employing such remedies as she thought might afford relief.

"A very sick man," was the doctor's verdict, "but I think we can relieve him soon." His encouraging words lifted a burden from Mrs. Washington's heart, although she still apprehended the worst, and yet she could scarcely tell why.

"You think that he will recover?" she said to the doctor, as he was leaving the house.

"I think so; he is relieved for the present, and I hope that he will [91]continue to improve," the doctor answered; and he answered just as he felt.

Still Mrs. Washington could not disguise her fears. She was a devout Christian woman, and she carried her burden to the Lord. She found some relief in laying her anxieties upon the great Burden-bearer. She came forth from communion with the Father of mercies more composed if not more hopeful. She possessed a degree of willingness to leave her companion in God's hand.

Mr. Washington was relieved of acute pain, but further than that he did not improve. After continuing several days in this condition, he said to his wife one morning:

"You may send for George to-day."

"I will," Mrs. Washington replied, bursting into tears. "I wish I had sent before."

"It might have been as well had we known," Mr. Washington responded, in a suggestive way.

"Do you think that your sickness will prove fatal?"

"I fear so. I think I am losing ground fast. I have failed very much in strength the last twenty-four hours. God's will be done."

"I hope I shall have grace to say so honestly."

"And I trust that God will give me grace to say so with true[92] submission," continued Mr. Washington. "I should like to live if it is God's will; but if He orders otherwise, we must accept His ordering as best."

Mrs. Washington could say no more. Her cup of sorrow was full and running over. But she sorrowed not as one without hope. Both she and her husband had been active Christians. They were prominent working members of the Episcopal Church. They knew, from happy experience, that solace and support were found in divine grace, so that this sudden and terrible affliction did not overtake them unawares, really. They were prepared for it in an important sense.

The doctor called just as this interview closed, and he seconded Mr. Washington's request to send for George.

"A great change has come over him since yesterday," he said to Mrs. Washington.

"He just told me that he was sinking," replied Mrs. Washington.

"I fear it is so; and George better be sent for at soon as possible. A few hours may bring the end." The physician spoke as if there were no more ground for hope.

"May God have mercy on us," responded Mrs. Washington, as she hastened from the room, with deep emotion, to despatch a servant for George.

Mr. Washington continued to sink rapidly during the day, his reason at times wavering, though his distress was not acute. Conscious that he could not survive many hours, he expressed an anxiety to see George once [93]more, and seemed impatient for his arrival.

It was almost night when George arrived, and his father was dying. His mother met him at the door, with emotion too deep for utterance. Her tears and despairing look told the story more plainly than words to George. He knew that there was no hope.

Hastening into his father's presence he was appalled by the change. That cheerful, loving face was struck with death. Fastening his eyes upon his son, as if he recognized him, the dying man looked his last farewell. He could not speak nor lift a finger. He was almost "beyond the river."

George was completely overcome. Throwing himself upon his father's neck, he broke into convulsive sobs, kissing him again and again, and giving way to the most passionate grief. The scene was affecting beyond description. All hearts were melted by the child's artless exhibition of filial love and sorrow. He loved his father with a devotion that knew no bounds, as he had reason to love him. Without this paternal friend, life would lose its charm to him, and he "would never be glad any more." So it seemed to him when he first was made conscious that his father was dying. The great sorrow seemed too great for him to bear. His young heart well nigh burst.

Here we have evidence of what George was as a son. He had not only loved and reverenced his father, but he had obeyed him with true filial respect. Obedience was one of his leading virtues. This endeared him to his father. Their tender love was mutual. "George thought the world of his father and his father thought the world of him." That dying scene in the family was proof of it.

In a few days all that was mortal of Augustine Washington was committed [94]to the dust, and George was a fatherless boy. As we have already intimated, this sudden affliction changed the current of George's life. Different plans and different experiences followed.

Mr. Washington, with characteristic foresight, had made his will. Irving says of it, "To Lawrence he gave the estate on the banks of the Potomac, with other real property, and several shares in iron-works. To Augustine, the second son by the first marriage, the old homestead and estate in Westmoreland. The children by the second marriage were severally well provided for; and George, when he became of age, was to have the house and lands on the Rappahannock."

Mrs. Washington assumed the care of the estate after the death of her husband, and continued her love of fine horses. She possessed several of rare beauty and fleetness. Among them was an Arabian colt, full grown, broken to the harness, but not to the saddle. He would not allow a man to ride him. He was so high strung, and so fractiously opposed to any one getting upon his back, that Mrs. Washington had forbidden any one on the farm attempting the feat.

George had two or three young friends visiting him, and they were admiring the antics of the colt in the meadow in front of the house.

"I should like to ride him," remarked George.

"Ride him!" exclaimed one of the number. "I thought nobody could ride him. That is what I have heard."

"Well, I should like to try," continued George. "If I could once get upon his back, I would run the risk anyway. He would prance some, I [95]guess."

"I should like to see you try, George," remarked another of his friends present. "You can ride him if any one can. But how do you know that you can't ride him? Have you ever tried?"


"Did any one ever try?"

"I believe Jake has; or, at least, he has tried to get on his back."

"If I were in your place I would see whether I could ride him or not," suggested his friend. "What's the harm?"

"Mother would not allow it," answered George; "She would expect to see my brains beat out if I should attempt it."

"But your mother would like it if you succeeded in riding him," rejoined his friend, by way of inducing him to make the attempt.

"I have no doubt she would; but if I should break my neck, instead of the colt, she would not be glad at all."

"Of course not; but I don't see any particular need of breaking your neck or limbs by making the attempt; and it would be a feather in your cap to manage the colt. Suppose we try;" and this proposition was made by George's companion in good faith.

"I have no fears for myself," answered George; "there is no danger in trying to get upon his back that I see, and once there, I will risk [96]being thrown."

"That is so," continued his friend, "and suppose we try it some day."

After some more discussion upon the subject, George agreed to make the attempt to mount the colt early the following morning, and his young friend seconded his decision heartily.

The next morning, a full hour before breakfast-time, the boys were out, eager to participate in the sport of conquering a wild colt. The colt appeared to snuff trouble, for he was unusually gay and crank that morning. His head and tail were up, as he went prancing around the field, when the boys put in their appearance.

"Drive him into a corner!" exclaimed George.

"Drive the wind into a corner as easily," replied one of the boys, just beginning to appreciate the difficulties of the situation.

"Well, he must be caught before he can be mounted," said George, philosophically. "I did not promise to mount him until he was bridled."

"That is so," responded another boy, more hopeful of results. "That corner yonder is a good place for the business," pointing to the eastward.

So they all rallied to drive the colt into the proposed corner; and, in the language of another who has described the scene, "after a deal of chasing and racing, heading and doubling, falling down and picking themselves up again, and more shouting and laughing than they had breath [97]to spare for, they at last succeeded in driving the panting and affrighted young animal into the corner. Here, by some means or other (it was difficult to tell precisely how) they managed to bridle him, although at no small risk of a broken head or two from his heels, that he seemed to fling about him in a dozen different directions at once."

"Lead him away from this corner," said one of the boys.

"Yes," answered George, "we must go well toward the centre of the field; he will want room to throw me."

So, throwing the bridle-reins over the colt's neck, and taking hold of the bridle close by the bits, the animal was led toward the centre of the field.

Before the boys or the colt were aware of George's purpose, with one bound he leaped upon the colt's back, and, seizing the reins, was prepared for the worst. His playmates were as much astonished as the animal was at this unexpected feat, and they rushed away to escape disaster.

"Look out, George!" shouted one, as the colt reared and stood upon his hind legs.

"He'll throw you, George, if you don't look out!" screamed another, as the animal reversed his position and sent his hind legs high into the air.

"Stick, George, stick!" they cried, as the colt dashed forward like the wind a few rods, then stopped, reared, and kicked again, as if determined to throw the rider. All the while George's companions were [98]alarmed at the fearful plunges of the animal, fearing that he would dash him to the ground.

At length the furious beast took the bits between his teeth and plunged forward upon the "dead run." George had no control over him as he dashed forward like mad. He hung to the reins like a veteran horseman as the wild creature leaped and plunged and kicked. His companions looked on in breathless interest, expecting every moment to see the young rider hurled to the ground. But, to their surprise, the colt stumbled, staggered a few steps, and fell, George still upon his back. They ran to the rescue, when George exclaimed, "The colt is dead!"

"Dead?" responded one of the boys in astonishment, "more likely his leg is broken."

"No, he is dead, sure. See the blood running from his mouth."

Sure enough, the animal was dying. In his fearful plunging he had ruptured a blood-vessel, and was bleeding to death. In a few moments the young Arabian colt was dead.

"Too bad!" mournfully spoke George, with big tears starting to his eyes. "I wish I had never made the attempt to ride him."

"I wish so now," answered one of his companions; "but who ever thought that the colt could kill himself?"

"Mother will feel bad enough now," continued George. "I am sorry that I have caused her so much trouble."


"What shall you tell her?" inquired a companion.

"I shall tell her the truth," manfully answered George; "that is all there is to tell about it."

The boys were soon at the breakfast-table, as cheerful as the circumstances would permit.

"Well, boys, have you seen the Arabian colt in your walks this morning?" Mrs. Washington inquired.

There was no reply for a moment. The boys looked at each other as if the crisis had come, and they were not quite prepared for it. At length George answered frankly:

"Mother, the colt is dead."

"Dead!" his mother exclaimed, "what can you mean, George?"

"He is certainly dead, mother."

"Have you seen him?"

"Yes; and I know that he is dead."

"How could such a thing happen?" said his mother, sadly and musingly.

"I will tell you all about it, mother," replied George, resolved upon making a clean breast of the affair. He went on to narrate how he arrived at the conclusion to ride the colt, not forgetting to say that he thought his mother would be pleased with the act if he succeeded in [100]riding the fractious animal successfully. He described the manner of catching, bridling, and mounting the colt, as well as his furious plunging, rearing, and running; and he closed by the honest confession, "I did wrong, mother, and I am very sorry that I attempted to ride the colt. I hope that you will forgive me, and I will never be so disobedient again."

"Forgive you, my son," his mother answered, evidently too well satisfied with the truthfulness of her boy to think much of her loss, "your frankness in telling me the truth is worth a thousand colts to me. Most gladly do I forgive you, and trust that the lesson you are taught by this unfortunate affair will go with you through life."

In this incident we discover the daring, adventurous spirit of George. His courage was equal to his honesty. No act of his life approached so nearly to disobedience as this. Yet the spirit of disobedience was not in his heart. His mother had forbidden any one to ride the colt, but it was because she feared the colt would injure them. "If I can ride him successfully, and prove that he can be broken to the saddle, mother will be delighted," he reasoned. His thoughts were of pleasing instead of disobeying his mother. Were there any doubt on this point, his rehearsal of the whole story, with no attempt to shield himself from censure, together with his sincere desire to be forgiven, settles the question beyond controversy.

After George left Mr. Williams' school, and had gone to reside with his brother Lawrence at Mount Vernon, a companion discovered in his journal several verses that breathed love for an unknown "lowland beauty."

"What is this, George?" he asked. "Are you the poet who writes such [101]lines as these?" And he read aloud the verses.

"To be honest I must acknowledge the authorship," George answered, with his usual frankness. "But there is more truth than poetry in the production, I imagine."

"I was suspicious of that," responded his friend. "That means that you fell in love with some bewitching girl, I conclude."

"All of that," answered George, with no disposition to conceal anything.

"That accounts for your poetical turn of mind," continued his friend. "I have heard it said that lovers take to poetry."

"I don't know about that; but I confess to being smitten by the 'lowland beauty,'" was George's honest answer.

"Who is she, and where does she live?"

"That is of no consequence now; she is nothing to me, although she is much in my thoughts."

"Did she respond to your professions of love?"

"I never made any profession of love to her."

"How is that?"

"I am too young and bashful to take such a step; it would be foolish indeed."


"Well, to love and keep it to one's self must be misery indeed," continued his companion.

"There is something in that," answered George, "and I shall not conceal that it has made me unhappy at times."

"And it was a kind of relief to let your tender regard express itself in poetry?" suggested his friend.

"Exactly so; and you are the only person in the world to whom I have spoken of the affair."

We have introduced this incident to show the tender side of George's heart. His gravity, decorum, and thoughtful habit were such as almost to preclude the possibility of his being captivated by a "lowland beauty." But this incident shows that he was much like the average boy of Christendom in this regard.

Irving says: "Whatever may have been the reason, this early attachment seems to have been a source of poignant discomfort to him. It clung to him after he look a final leave of school in the autumn of 1747, and went to reside with his brother Lawrence at Mount Vernon. Here he continued his mathematical studies and his practice in surveying, disturbed at times by recurrences of his unlucky passion. Though by no means of a poetical temperament, the waste pages of his journal betray several attempts to pour forth his amorous sorrows in verse. They are mere common-place rhymes, such as lovers at his age are apt to write, in which he bewails his

"'Poor, restless heart,
[103]Wounded by Cupid's dart;'

and 'bleeding for one who remains pitiless of his griefs and woes.'

"The tenor of some of the verses induce us to believe that he never told his love; but, as we have already surmised, was prevented by his bashfulness.

"'Ah, woe is me, that I should love and conceal!
Long have I wished and never dare reveal.'

"It is difficult to reconcile one's self to the idea of the cool and sedate Washington, the great champion of American liberty, a woe-worn lover in his youthful days, 'sighing like a furnace,' and inditing plaintive verses about the groves of Mount Vernon. We are glad of an opportunity, however, of penetrating to his native feelings, and finding that under his studied decorum and reserve he had a heart of flesh throbbing with the warm impulses of human nature."

In another place, Irving refers to the affair again, and furnishes the following bit of information:

"The object of this early passion is not positively known. Tradition states that the 'lowland beauty' was a Miss Grimes of Westmoreland, afterwards Mrs. Lee, and mother of General Henry Lee, who figured in Revolutionary times as Light Horse Harry, and was always a favorite with Washington, probably from the recollections of his early tenderness for the mother."

George, as we have already intimated, spent his time out of school at Mount Vernon, with his brother Lawrence, who had become a man of [104]considerable repute and influence for one of his years. Here he was brought into contact with military men, and occasionally naval officers were entertained by Lawrence. Often vessels anchored in the river, and the officers enjoyed the abundant hospitality of the Mount Vernon mansion. George was a close observer of what passed in his new home, and a careful listener to the tales of war and a seafaring life frequently told in his hearing. The martial spirit within him was aroused by these tales of adventure and glory, and he was prepared for almost any hardship or peril in the way of the object of his ambition. Besides, his brother was disposed to encourage his aspirations in the direction of a military life. He discovered the elements of a good soldier in the boy, and really felt that distinction awaited him in a military career.

"How would you like a midshipman's berth on a British man-of-war?" inquired Lawrence.

"I should like nothing better," George answered.

"You would then be in the service of the king, and have a chance to prove your loyalty by your deeds," added Lawrence. "Your promotion would be certain."

"If I deserved it," added George, with thoughtful interest.

"Yes, if you deserved it," repeated Lawrence; "and I have no doubt that you would deserve it."

"But I fear that mother will not consent to such an arrangement," suggested George.


"I will confer with her upon the subject," replied Lawrence. "I think she will take the same view of it that I do."

Lawrence did confer with his mother concerning this venture, and found her wholly averse to the project.

"I can never consent that he should follow such a life," she said.

"But I am sure that he would distinguish himself there, and bring honor to the family," urged Lawrence.

"Character is worth more than distinction," responded Mrs. Washington. "I fear the effect of such a life upon his character."

"George can be trusted in any position, no matter what the temptations may be," Lawrence pleaded.

"That may be true, and it may not be true," remarked Mrs. Washington. "We ought not to incur the risk unless absolutely obliged to do it."

"If there be a risk," remarked Lawrence, doubtfully.

"Besides," continued Mrs. Washington, "I could not consent to his going so far from home unless it were impossible for him to gain a livelihood near by."

She was unyielding in this interview, and could see no reason why she should consent to such a separation. But Lawrence persevered in his efforts to obtain her consent, and finally it was given with manifest reluctance. A writer describes what followed thus:


"Within a short time a British man-of-war moved up the Potomac, and cast anchor in full view of Mount Vernon. On board of this vessel his brother Lawrence procured him a midshipman's warrant, after having by much persuasion gained the consent of his mother; which, however, she yielded with much reluctance and many misgivings with respect to the profession her son was about to choose. Not knowing how much pain all this was giving his mother, George was as near wild with delight as could well be with a boy of a nature so even and steady. Now, what had all along been but a waking dream was about to become a solemn reality. His preparations were soon made: already was his trunk packed, and carried on board the ship that was to bear him so far away from his native land; and nothing now remained but to bid farewell to the loved ones at home. But when he came and stood before his mother, dressed in his gay midshipman's uniform, so tall and robust in figure, so handsome in face, and so noble in look and gesture, the thought took possession of her mind, that, if she suffered him to leave her then, she might never see him more; and losing her usual firmness and self-control, she burst into tears.

"'I cannot consent to let you go,' she said, at length. 'It will break my heart, George.'

"'How can I refuse to go now that I have enlisted, and my trunk is on board?' pleaded George.

"'Order your trunk ashore, and return your uniform, my son, if you do not wish to crush your mother's heart,' responded Mrs. Washington. 'I cannot bear the thought.'[107]"

George was overcome by the spectacle of his mother's grief, and with the tears running down his cheeks he replied, like the young hero that he was:

"'Mother, I can never go and cause you so much grief. I will stay at home.'"

His trunk was brought ashore, his uniform was returned, his tears were wiped away, and he was happier in thus yielding to his mother's reasonable request than he could or would have been in gratifying his own wishes.

The higher and nobler qualities of manly character here triumphed over the lower passions and desires. It was an excellent discipline for George, while, at the same time, the incident exhibits the sterling qualities of his heart.

The four incidents narrated present different aspects of George's character, and show, without additional proof, that he was an uncommon boy. The several qualities displayed in these experiences lie at the foundation of human excellence. Without them the future career of a youth may prove a failure. With them, a manly, virtuous character is well nigh assured.



"Obedience and truthfulness are cardinal virtues to be cultivated," remarked Mrs. Washington to her husband, with whom she frequently discussed the subject of family government. "No son or daughter can form a reliable character without them."

"There can be no question about that," answered Mr. Washington; "and for that reason these virtues are just as necessary for the state as they are for the family; reliable citizens cannot be made without them any more than reliable sons and daughters."

"I suppose that God means to make reliable citizens out of obedient and truthful children," continued Mrs. Washington. "Good family government assures good civil government. We must learn to obey before we know how to govern."

"And I think that obedience to parents is likely to be followed by obedience to God," responded Mr. Washington. "Disobedience is attended by a state of mind that is inimical to sincere obedience to God."

"The Bible teaches that plainly," replied Mrs. Washington. "There is something very tender and impressive in the lesson, 'Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayst live long on the earth.' A longer and better life is promised to those who obey their parents, and it must be because they are led to God thereby."

"Obedience is the first commandment, according to that," remarked Mr. [109]Washington, "the most important of all, and I have no doubt of it. We are to begin there in order to make children what they ought to be."

"The consequences of disobedience as threatened in the Scriptures are fearful," added Mrs. Washington. "There could scarcely be more startling words than these: 'The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.' Disobedience to and irreverence for parents must be wicked, indeed, to warrant such a threatening."

Here was the secret of Mrs. Washington's successful family government. That George owed more to faithful maternal example and training than he did to any other influence, he always believed and acknowledged. And OBEDIENCE was the first commandment in the Washington family. George Washington Parke Custis, a grandson, said:

"The mother of Washington, in forming him for those distinguished parts he was destined to perform, first taught him the duties of OBEDIENCE, the better to prepare him for those of command. In the well-ordered domicile where his early years were passed, the levity and indulgence common to youth was tempered by a deference and well-regulated restraint which, while it curtailed or suppressed no rational enjoyment usual in the spring-time of life, prescribed those enjoyments within the bounds of moderation and propriety.

"The matron held in reserve an authority which never departed from her; not even when her son had become the most illustrious of men. It seemed to say, 'I am your mother, the being who gave you life, the guide who directed your steps when they needed the guidance of age and wisdom, the parental affection which claime[110]d your love, the parental authority which commanded your obedience; whatever may be your success, whatever your renown, next to your God you owe them most to me.' Nor did the chief dissent from these truths; but to the last moments of the life of his venerable parent, he yielded to her will the most dutiful and implicit obedience, and felt for her person and character the most holy reverence and attachment."

Lawrence Washington, Esq., of Chotauk, a relative and playmate of George in boyhood, described the home of the mother as follows:

"I was often there with George, his playmate, school-mate, and young man's companion. Of the mother I was ten times more afraid than I ever was of my own parents. She awed me in the midst of her kindness, for she was, indeed, truly kind. I have often been present with her sons, proper, tall fellows, too, and we were all as mute as mice; and even now, when time has whitened my locks, and I am the grandparent of a second generation, I could not behold that remarkable woman without feelings it is impossible to describe. Whoever has seen that awe-inspiring air and manner so characteristic in the Father of his Country will remember the matron as she appeared when the presiding genius of her well-ordered household, COMMANDING AND BEING OBEYED."

Mrs. Washington commanded obedience of her servants and agents as she did of her children. On one occasion she ordered an employee to perform a certain piece of work in a prescribed way. On going to the field she was disappointed.


"Did I not tell you to do that piece of work?" she inquired of him.

"Yes, madam."

"Did I not direct you how to do it?"

"Yes, madam."

"Then why have you not done as you were directed to do?"

"Because I thought my way of doing it was better than yours," the servant answered.

"Pray, tell me, who gave you any exercise of judgment in the matter? I command you, sir; there is nothing left for you but to obey."

So obedience was the law of her homestead. Outside and inside it seemed order, harmony, and efficiency.

There was one volume upon which she relied next to the Bible,—"Sir Matthew Hale's Contemplations, Moral and Divine."

Everett said of the influence of this book upon the life of Washington, "It would not be difficult to point out in the character of Washington some practical exemplification of the maxims of the Christian life as laid down by that illustrious magistrate."

That Mrs. Washington made this volume the basis of her home instruction, there is ample proof. The character of her son bore faithful witness to the fidelity with which she taught and enforced the excellent counsels which the distinguished author gave in his "Contemplations." It will [112]assist our purpose to cite some of its lessons in brief, as follows:

"An humble man leans not to his own understanding; he is sensible of the deficiency of his own power and wisdom, and trusts not in it; he is also sensible of the all-sufficient power, wisdom, and goodness of Almighty God, and commits himself to Him for counsel, guidance, direction, and strength."

"Consider what it is thou pridest thyself in, and examine well the nature of the things themselves, how little and inconsiderable they are; at least how uncertain and unstable they are."

"Thou hast, it may be, wealth, stores of money; but how much of it is of use to thee? That which thou spendest is gone; that which thou keepest is as insignificant as so much dirt or clay; only thy care about it makes thy life the more uneasy."

"Thou has honor, esteem; thou art deceived, thou hast it not. He hath it that gives it thee, and which He may detain from thee at pleasure."

"Much time might be saved and redeemed, in retrenching the unnecessary waste thereof, in our ordinary sleep, attiring and dressing ourselves, and the length of our meals as breakfasts, dinners, suppers; which, especially in this latter age, and among people of the better sort, are protracted to an immoderate and excessive length."

"Gaming, taverns, and plays, as they are pernicious, and corrupt[113] youth; so, if they had no other fault, yet they are justly to be declined in respect to their excessive expense of time, and habituating men to idleness and vain thoughts, and disturbing passions, when they are past, as well as while they are used."

"Be obstinately constant to your devotion at certain times, and be sure to spend the Lord's Day entirely in those religious duties proper for it; and let nothing but an inevitable necessity divert you from it."

"Be industrious and faithful to your calling. The merciful God has not only indulged us with a far greater portion of time for our ordinary occasions than he has reserved for himself, but also enjoins and requires our industry and diligence in it."

"Honesty and plain dealings in transactions, as well public as private, is the best and soundest prudence and policy, and overmatch craft and subtlety."

"To rob for burnt offerings, and to lie for God, is a greater disservice to His Majesty than to rob for rapine or lie for advantage."

"As he is overcareful that will not put on his clothes for fear of wearing them out, or use his axe for fear of hurting it, so he gives but an ill account of a healthy body that dares not employ it in a suitable occupation for fear of hurting his health."

"Improve the opportunity of place, eminence, and greatness to serve God and your country, with all vigilance, diligence, and [114]fidelity."

"Reputation is not the thing primarily to be looked after in the exercise of virtue, for that is to affect the substance for the sake of the shadow, which is a kind of levity and weakness of mind; but look at virtue and the worth of it, as that which is first desirable, and reputation as a fair and useful accession to it."

"Take a man that is employed as a statesman or politician, though he have much wisdom and prudence, it commonly degenerates into craft and cunning and pitiful shuffling, without the fear of God; but mingle the fear of Almighty God with that kind of wisdom, and it renders it noble and generous and honest and stable."

"Whatever you do, be very careful to retain in your heart a habit of religion, that may be always about you, and keep your heart and life always as in His presence, and tending towards Him."

We might quote much more of equal value from this treasury of wisdom. The book touches humanity at almost every point, and there is scarcely any lesson, relating to the elements of success in life, which it does not contain. Industry, perseverance, self-denial, decision, energy, economy, frugality, thoroughness, magnanimity, courage, fidelity, honesty, principle, and religion,—these, and all other indispensable human qualities, receive careful and just attention. And we repeat, George Washington's character was formed upon the basis of those instructions, under the moulding power of a superior mother.


Mrs. Washington descended from a family of distinction among the Virginia colonists. Mr. Paulding says of her: "As a native of Virginia, she was hospitable by birthright, and always received her visitors with a smiling welcome. But they were never asked to stay but once, and she always speeded the parting guest by affording every facility in her power. She possessed all those domestic habits and qualities that confer value on women, and had no desire to be distinguished by any titles but those of a good wife and mother."

She was a very resolute woman, and exercised the most complete self-control in the presence of danger and difficulties. There was but a single exception to this remark, she was afraid of thunder and lightning. At fifteen years of age she was walking with a young female friend, when they were overtaken by a fearful thunder-shower, and her friend was struck by lightning at her side and instantly killed. The terrible calamity wrought seriously upon her nervous system, and from that time she was unable to control her nerves during a thunder-storm. Otherwise she was one of the most fearless and resolute women ever born in Virginia.

Mrs. Washington was not regarded as a superstitious woman, yet she had a dream when George was about five years old which so deeply impressed her that she pondered it through life. Mr. Weems gives it as she told it to a neighbor more than once, as follows:

"I dreamt," said the mother of Washington, "that I was sitting on the piazza of a large new house, into which we had but lately moved. George, at that time about five years old, was in the garden with his corn-stalk plough, busily running little furrows in the sand, in imitation of Negro Dick, a fine black boy, wit[116]h whose ploughing George was so taken that it was sometimes a hard matter to get him to his dinner. And so, as I was sitting on the piazza at my work, I suddenly heard in my dream a kind of roaring noise on the eastern side of the house. On running out to see what was the matter, I beheld a dreadful sheet of fire bursting from the roof. The sight struck me with a horror which took away my strength, and threw me, almost senseless, to the ground. My husband and the servants, as I saw in my dream, soon came up; but, like myself, were so terrified at the sight that they could make no attempt to extinguish the flames. In this most distressing state the image of my little son came, I thought, to my mind, more dear and tender than ever, and turning towards the garden where he was engaged with his little corn-stalk plough, I screamed out twice with all my might, 'George! George!' In a few moments, as I thought, he threw down his mimic plough, and ran to me, saying, 'High! ma! what makes you call so angry! ain't I a good boy? don't I always run to you soon as I hear you call?' I could make no reply, but just threw up my arms towards the flame. He looked up and saw the house all on fire; but instead of bursting out a-crying, as might have been expected from a child, he instantly brightened up and seemed ready to fly to extinguish it. But first looking at me with great tenderness, he said, 'O ma, don't be afraid! God Almighty will help us, and we shall soon put it out.' His looks and words revived our spirits in so wonderful a manner that we all instantly set about to assist him. A ladder was presently brought, on which, as I saw in my dream, he ran up with the nimbleness of a squirrel and the servants supplied him with water, which he threw on the fire from an American gourd. But that growing weaker, the flam[117]e appeared to gain ground, breaking forth and roaring most dreadfully, which so frightened the servants that many of them, like persons in despair, began to leave him. But he, still undaunted, continued to ply it with water, animating the servants at the same time, both by his words and actions. For a long time the contest appeared very doubtful; but at length a venerable old man, with a tall cap and an iron rod in his hand, like a lightning-rod, reached out to him a curious little trough, like a wooden shoe! On receiving this he redoubled his exertions, and soon extinguished the fire. Our joy on the occasion was unbounded. But he, on the contrary, showing no more of transport now than of terror before, looked rather sad at the sight of the great harm that had been done. Then I saw in my dream that after some time spent as in deep thought, he called out with much joy, 'Well ma, now if you and the family will but consent, we can make a far better roof than this ever was; a roof of such a quality that, if well kept together, it will last forever; but if you take it apart, you will make the house ten thousand times worse than it was before.'"

Mr. Weems adds: "This, though certainly a very curious dream, needs no Daniel to interpret it, especially if we take Mrs. Washington's new house for the young colony government; the fire on its east side for North's civil war; the gourd, which George first employed, for the American three and six months' enlistments; the old man, with his cap and iron rod, for Dr. Franklin; the shoe-like vessel which he reached to George for the sabot, or wooden-shoed nation, the French whom Franklin courted a long time for America; and the new roof proposed by George for a staunch, honest Republic, that 'equal government' which, by guarding alike the welfare of all, ought by all to be so heartily beloved as to endure forever."


There are many anecdotes told of her which illustrate her character better than plain statement.

The death of her husband was a crushing blow to her; yet, on the whole, her Christian hope triumphed. Friends offered to assist her in the management of her large estate, for all the property left to her children was to be controlled by her until they each one became of age.

"No," she answered, "God has put the responsibility upon me by the death of my husband, and I must meet it. He will give me wisdom and strength as I need it."

"But it is too much care and labor for a woman," suggested one, thinking that what had required the constant and careful attention of a man could not be added to the cares of a woman, whose hands were full with household duties before.

"We can bear more and do more than we think we can when compelled by the force of circumstances," replied Mrs. Washington. "In ourselves we are weak, and can do but little; but by the help of God we are made equal to the demands of duty."

"Equal to all that comes within the bounds of reason," responded the relative, intending that it was unreasonable for the mother of five young children, the eldest but eleven years old, to undertake so much.

"Certainly; and the demands of duty are always within the bounds of reason," answered Mrs. Washington; "that was what I said. Providence has laid this burden of care and labor upon me, and upon no one else. While [119]I shall be very thankful for advice and assistance from my friends, I must not shrink from the cares of this new position."

It was in this spirit that Mrs. Washington took up the additional duties devolved upon her by the sudden death of her husband. In view of this fact, Mr. Sparks paid her the following just tribute:

"In these important duties Mrs. Washington acquitted herself with great fidelity to her trust, and with entire success. Her good sense, assiduity, tenderness, and vigilance overcame every obstacle; and, as the richest reward of a mother's solicitude and toil, she had the happiness to see all her children come forward with a fair promise into life, filling the sphere allotted them in a manner equally honorable to themselves, and to the parent who had been the only guide of their principles, conduct, and habits. She lived to witness the noble career of her eldest son, till, by his own rare merits, he was raised to the head of a nation, and applauded and revered by the whole world. It has been said that there never was a great man, the elements of whose greatness might not be traced to the original characteristics or early influence of his mother. If this be true, how much do mankind owe to the mother of Washington?"

Irving said: "She proved herself worthy of the trust. Endowed with plain, direct, good sense, thorough conscientiousness, and prompt decision, she governed her family strictly, but kindly, exacting deference while she inspired affection. George, being her eldest son, was thought to be her favorite, yet she never gave him undue preference; and the implicit deference exacted from him in childhood continued to be habitually observed by him to the day of her death. He inherited from her a high temper and a spirit of command, but her early precepts and [120]example taught him to restrain and govern that temper, and to square his conduct on the exact principles of equity and justice.

"Tradition gives an interesting picture of the widow, with her little flock gathered round her, as was her daily wont, reading to them lessons of religion and morality out of some standard work. Her favorite volume was Sir Matthew Hale's 'Contemplations, Moral and Divine.' The admirable maxims therein contained for outward actions, as well as for self-government, sank deep into the mind of George, and doubtless had a great influence in forming his character. They certainly were exemplified in his conduct throughout life. This mother's manual, bearing his mother's name, Mary Washington, written with her own hand, was ever preserved by him with filial care, and may still be seen in the archives of Mount Vernon."

When her son first engaged in the war against the French and Indians, she appeared to be indifferent to the honor conferred upon him.

"You must go at the call of your country, but I regret that it is necessary, George," she said, when he paid her his farewell visit. "May the Lord go with you, and preserve you and the country!"

"And may He preserve and bless you, whether He preserves me or not!" answered her son. "The perils of war render my return uncertain, to say the least; and it is always wise to be prepared for the worst."

"I trust that I am prepared for anything that Providence orders," responded Mrs. Washington, "though it is with pain that I approach this separation. These trying times require great sacrifices of all, and we must make them cheerfully."


"Victory would not be far away if all possessed that spirit," answered the young commander. "If there is patriotism enough in the country to defend our cause, the country will be saved."

That Washington himself was deeply affected by this interview, his own tears, when he bade his mother final adieu, bore unmistakable witness.

When the news of his crossing the Delaware, at a time of great peril and gloom in the land, was brought to her, she exclaimed, raising her hand heavenward, "Thank God! thank God for the success!"

There appeared to be no recognition of peculiar wisdom and skill on the part of her son, though the friends gathered were full of his praise.

"The country is profoundly grateful to your son for his achievements," suggested one; "and the praise of his countrymen knows no bounds."

"I have no doubt that George deserves well of his country," Mrs. Washington replied, "but, my good sir, here is too much flattery."

"No flattery at all, but deserved praise," her friend and neighbor retorted.

"Well, I have no fears about George," she replied. "He will not forget the lessons I have taught him; he will not forget himself, though he is the subject of so much praise."

After her son had left for Cambridge, Mass., to take charge of the troops, her son-in-law, Mr. Fielding Lewis, offered to lighten her labors by taking care of her property, or some part of it at least.


"No, Fielding, it is not necessary; I am competent to attend to it myself," she answered.

"I did not question your competency; I only wanted to relieve you of some care," the son-in-law answered.

"I understand and appreciate your kindness," she said; "but, nevertheless, I must decline your offer. My friends are all very kind to me, and I feel very grateful, but it is better for me to bear this responsibility as long as I can."

After discussing the subject still further, Mrs. Washington yielded in part to his request; she said:

"Fielding, you may keep my books in order, as your eyesight is better than mine, but leave the executive management to me."

When Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, Washington despatched a messenger to convey the glad tidings to his mother at Fredericksburg. At once her friends and neighbors called with great enthusiasm to honor her as the mother of the conqueror of England.

"Bless God!" she exclaimed, on receipt of the news. "The war will now be ended, and peace and independence and happiness bless the country."

"Your son is the most illustrious general in the world," remarked one.

"The nation idolizes him," said another.

"The soldiers almost worship him," still another.


"The saviour of his country," announced a fourth in jubilant state of mind, desiring, at the same time, to gratify his mother.

But none of these lofty tributes to her son afforded her pleasure; they seemed to annoy her by causing her to feel that the divine blessing was overlooked.

"We must not forget the great Giver, in our joy over the success of our arms," she said.

She had never forgotten Him. During those six long years of conflict, her hope had been inspired, and her comfort found, at the mercy-seat. Daily, during the warm season of the year, she had repaired to a secluded spot near her dwelling to pray for her George and her country. At other seasons of the year she daily remembered them within her quiet home. However gratified she may have been with the honors lavished upon her son, she would not allow herself to honor the creature more than the Creator.

As soon as possible after the surrender of Cornwallis, Washington visited his mother at Fredericksburg, attended by his splendid suite. The latter were extremely anxious to behold and honor the aged matron, whom their illustrious chief respected and loved so sincerely.

On arriving at Fredericksburg, he quartered his suite comfortably, and then repaired alone and on foot to see his mother, whom he had not seen for over six years. She met him at the door with feelings we cannot conceive, much less describe.


In silence and tears they embraced each other, with that tender, mutual pledge of undying love—a kiss.

"God has answered my prayers, George, and I praise Him that I see your face again," she said.

"Yes, my dear mother, God has indeed heard your prayers, and the thought that you were interceding for me at the throne of grace was always an inspiration to me," answered the son.

"How changed, George!" the mother remarked, scanning his face closely, and noticing that he had grown old rapidly. "You bear the marks of war."

"True, men grow old fast in war," the son replied; "but my health is good, and rest and peace will soon make me as good as new."

"For that I shall devoutly pray," Mrs. Washington responded.

For an hour, and more, the conversation continued, the mother making many inquiries concerning his health and future plans, the prospects of peace and prosperity to the country, and kindred subjects; but she did not drop a single word respecting his fame.

The inhabitants of Fredericksburg and vicinity immediately arranged for a grand military ball in honor of Gen. Washington and his staff. Such an occasion would furnish a favorable opportunity for the members of Washington's staff to meet his mother.

At that time, as now, it was customary for military and civic leaders to allow their joy over happy occasions to ooze out through their heels. We are unable to explain the phenomenon; but the fact remains, that a ball [125]on a grand scale was planned, to which Washington's mother was specially invited. Her reply to the flattering invitation was characteristic.

"Although my dancing days are pretty well over, I shall be most happy to contribute what I can to the general festivity."

Mrs. Washington was then over seventy years of age.

It was the gayest assembly ever convened in Virginia at that time, and perhaps the occasion was the merriest. Gay belles and dignified matrons graced the occasion, arrayed in rich laces and bright brocades, the well preserved relics of scenes when neither national misfortune nor private calamity forbade their use.

In addition to Washington's staff, many other military officers were present, all gorgeously dressed, contributing largely to the beauty and grandeur of the scene.

"But despite the soul-soothing charm of music," says a writer, "the fascinations of female loveliness, and the flattering devotion of the gallant brave, all was eager suspense and expectation, until there entered, unannounced and unattended, the mother of Washington, leaning on the arm of her son.

"The large audience at once paid their respects to the honored guests, the mother of the chief being the central figure of the occasion. Washington presented American and European officers to his mother, who wore the simple but becoming and appropriate costume of the Virginia ladies of the olden time, while the sincere congratulations of the whole assembly were tendered to her."


The writer just quoted continues:

"The European strangers gazed long in wondering amazement upon the sublime and touching spectacle. Accustomed to the meretricious display of European courts, they regarded with astonishment her unadorned attire, and the mingled simplicity and majesty for which the language and manners of the mother of Washington were so remarkable."

When the clock struck nine, the venerable lady arose, and said:

"Come, George, it is time for old people to be at home."

Then expressing her gratification at being able to be present on so extraordinary an occasion, and wishing the company much joy, she retired, as she came, leaning on the arm of her son.

This picture of beautiful simplicity and absence of pride, in the midst of distinguished honors, contrasts finely with a scene in the life of another great general, Napoleon. On one occasion, when Napoleon gave audience to famous guests, together with several members of his family, his mother advanced towards him. According to a royal custom, the emperor extended his hand to her to kiss, as he had done when his brothers and sisters approached him.

"No," responded his mother; "you are the king, the emperor of all the rest, but you are my son."

Mrs. Washington was always actuated by a similar sense of propriety; and her demeanor towards the general seemed to say, "You are my son." And [127]the general accepted that exhibition of maternal dignity and love as proper and honorable.

At the close of the Revolution, Lafayette, before leaving the country, visited Mrs. Washington at her home. One of her grandsons accompanied him to the house. As they approached, the grandson said, pointing to an old lady in the garden:

"There is my grandmother in the garden."

"Indeed!" answered Lafayette. "I am happy to find her able to be out."

Lafayette saluted her in his cordial way on coming up to her, when she replied:

"Ah, Marquis, you see an old woman; but come, I can make you welcome to my poor dwelling without the parade of changing my dress."

"I come to bid you adieu before leaving the country," remarked Lafayette, when they were seated in the house. "I desired to see you once more."

"I assure you that nothing could afford me more real pleasure than to welcome once more to my home so distinguished a friend of my son and my country," Mrs. Washington answered.

"I congratulate you upon having such a son and such a country," continued Lafayette.[128]

"I trust that I am grateful for both," Mrs. Washington replied.

"I rejoice with you in your son's well-earned fame," continued the distinguished Frenchman, "and I am glad that you have lived to see this day."

Lafayette proceeded to rehearse the patriotic deeds of Washington for his country, growing more and more enthusiastic in his praise as he continued, until finally Mrs. Washington remarked:

"I am not surprised at what George has done, for he was always a good boy."

Washington retired to his home at Mount Vernon at the close of the war, and earnestly entreated his mother to take up her abode with him.

"You are too aged and infirm to live alone," he said, "and I can have no greater pleasure than to have you in my family."

"I feel truly grateful for your kindness, George, but I enjoy my mode of life," she answered. "I think it is according to the direction of Providence."

"It would not be in opposition to Providence if you should come to live with me," responded Washington with a smile.

"Nevertheless, I must decline. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your interest and love, but I feel fully competent to take care of myself."


That settled the question, and she remained at Fredericksburg.

When Washington was elected President of the United States, he paid a farewell visit to his mother. He was about to depart for the seat of government, which was in New York City.

"I would gladly have avoided this responsibility for your sake, as well as mine," remarked Washington; "but Providence seemed to leave me no way of escape, and I have come to bid you an affectionate farewell."

"You are in the way of duty, George, and I have no desire to interpose," his mother answered. "My race is almost run, and I shall never see you again in the flesh."

"I hope we shall meet again; though at your great age, and with such a serious disease upon you, the end cannot be far away," replied the son.

Mrs. Washington was then eighty-three years of age, and was suffering from a cancer in the breast.

"Yes, I am old and feeble, and growing more so every day," continued his mother; "and I wait the summons of the Master without fear or anxiety."

Pausing a moment, as if to control emotion, she added, "Go, George, and fulfil the high destiny to which Providence calls you; and may God continue to guide and bless you!"

At this point let Mr. Custis speak:

"Washington was deeply affected. His head rested upon th[130]e shoulder of his parent, whose aged arm feebly, yet fondly, encircled his neck. That brow, on which fame had wreathed the purest laurel virtue ever gave to created man, relaxed from its lofty bearing. That look, which would have awed a Roman senate in its Fabrician day, was bent in filial tenderness upon the time-worn features of the aged matron. He wept. A thousand recollections crowded upon his mind, as memory, retracing scenes long passed, carried him back to the maternal mansion and the days of juvenility, where he beheld that mother, whose care, education, and discipline caused him to reach the topmost height of laudable ambition. Yet, how were his glories forgotten while he gazed upon her whom, wasted by time and malady, he should part with to meet no more!"

Washington never saw his mother again. She died Aug. 25, 1789. Her last days were characterized by that cheerful resignation to the divine will for which she was ever distinguished, and she passed away in the triumphs of Christian faith.

Her remains were laid in the burial ground of Fredericksburg, in a spot which she selected, because it was situated near the place where she was wont to retire for meditation and prayer. For many years her grave was unmarked by slab or monument; but in 1833, Silas E. Barrows, Esq., of New York City, undertook the erection of a monument at his own expense.

On the seventh day of May of that year, President Jackson laid the corner-stone in the presence of a great concourse of people. It was estimated that more than fifteen thousand persons assembled to honor the dead.

The plan of the monument was pyramidical, and the height of the obelisk [131]forty-five feet. A colossal bust of Washington adorned the shaft, surmounted by the American eagle sustaining a civic crown above the hero's head, and with the simple inscription:


From President Jackson's eulogy on the interesting occasion, we make the following brief extract:

"In the grave before us lie the remains of his mother. Long has it been unmarked by any monumental tablet, but not unhonored. You have undertaken the pious duty of erecting a column to her name, and of inscribing upon it the simple but affecting words, 'Mary, the Mother of Washington.' No eulogy could be higher, and it appeals to the heart of every American.... The mother and son are beyond the reach of human applause, but the bright example of paternal and filial excellence which their conduct furnishes cannot but produce the most salutary effects upon our countrymen. Let their example be before us from the first lesson which is taught the child, till the mother's duties yield to the course of preparation and action which nature prescribes for him....

"Fellow citizens, at your request, and in your name, I now deposit this plate in the spot destined for it; and when the American pilgrim shall, in after ages, come up to this high and holy place, and lay his hand upon this sacred column, may he recall the virtues of her who sleeps beneath, and depart with [132]his affections purified and his piety strengthened, while he invokes blessings upon the mother of Washington."

John Adams wrote to his wife concerning a certain statesman: "In reading history, you will generally observe, when you find a great character, whether a general, a statesman, or a philosopher, some female about him, either in the character of a mother, wife, or sister, who has knowledge and ambition above the ordinary level of women; and that much of his eminence is owing to her precepts, example, or instigation in some shape or other."

This remark was remarkably illustrated in the career of Washington. He always acknowledged his indebtedness to maternal influence. He could say, with John Quincy Adams, "Such as I have been, whatever it was; such as I am, whatever it is; and such as I hope to be in all futurity, must be ascribed, under Providence, to the precepts and example of my mother."

Historians and poets, statesmen and orators, have ever accorded to the mother of Washington a signal influence to determine his character and career. And so universal is this sentiment, that the American people consider that the noblest tribute to her memory is the inscription upon her monument:




"George can make his home with me, now that his school-days are over," said Lawrence to his mother, anxious to keep his young brother in his own family at Mount Vernon.

"But I need him more than you do," objected Mrs. Washington; "you can hardly imagine how I miss him."

"So do we miss him when he is not here," responded Lawrence. "George is good company, as much so as a man of twenty-five years of age. I want very much that he should make his home with me."

"I thought he might be of service to me in running the farm, and, at the same time, pursue his studies by himself," continued Mrs. Washington.

"He can study better with me," suggested Lawrence, "because I can assist him as well as not."

"There is no doubt of that," replied the mother, "and that is the only reason I can see why he should make his home with you."

"There is one other reason, mother, and a good one, too."

"What is it?"

"He will have a better opportunity to get into business if he lives with [134]me. I have much company, and just the class of men to introduce a capable youth like George into some good pursuit."

"There is something in that," responded Mrs. Washington.

"There is much in it every way," added Lawrence. "George is now at an age when his plans for life should be forming. He is competent to occupy almost any position that offers, and I can be of real service to him in directing and advising him."

There is evidence to believe that Lawrence had not wholly abandoned the idea of introducing George into military life. He himself had become a man of influence in the State. He was a member of the House of Burgesses, and adjutant-general of his district; a gentleman of acknowledged ability and position. He saw in George the foreshadowing of a distinguished man. He had more exalted ideas than his mother of the boy's ability and promise. If he could have him in his family, he could assist him onward and upward, beyond what would be possible if he remained with his mother.

It was finally settled that George should take up his abode with Lawrence at Mount Vernon. We need not say that this decision was congenial to George. He was so strongly attached to Lawrence, and enjoyed being at Mount Vernon so much, that he found great delight in removing thither permanently. It proved to be a very important step in his career, as Lawrence prophesied it would be.

George had not passed his sixteenth birthday. Though still a boy, his views and aims of life were those of a man. He pursued arithmetic and surveying under the direction of his brother, with reference to future manhood. Nor was that all.


One day Lawrence surprised him by the inquiry, "George, how would you like to take lessons in the manual exercise of Adjutant Muse?"

"I should like it," George replied.

"It may be of service to you at some future day," Lawrence continued. "It will do you no harm, surely."

"I am ready for the lessons any time," added George. "I have always had a desire to know something in that line."

Adjutant Muse served with Lawrence in the war against the Spaniards in the West Indies, and he was a competent teacher of the manual exercise. It was arranged that he should instruct George in the art.

Subsequently, also, Lawrence made arrangements with Monsieur Van Braam to instruct George in the art of fencing. He had an idea that dexterity in the use of his limbs, as well as fire-arms, would be of future use to him. These facts indicate that Lawrence did not expect that his young brother would become a farmer. There is traditional evidence that he stated as much to George, whose military aspirations were nurtured in the Mount Vernon home.

Adjutant Muse encouraged George to read certain treaties upon the art of war, which he offered to loan him. From these volumes he acquired considerable knowledge of the theory of tactics, and of the evolution of troops. No previous branch of study had enlisted his interest more thoroughly than did these works upon military tactics; and we may easily discover the design of Providence to prepare him in this way to act a [136]conspicuous part in the achievement of American independence.

At Mount Vernon George met William Fairfax, whose daughter Lawrence married. He occupied a valuable estate of his cousin Lord Fairfax, at Belvoir, seven or eight miles from Mount Vernon. He was an English gentleman of culture and wealth, very much respected by all who knew him.

Mr. Fairfax became very much interested in George, regarding him as a youth of rare, manly virtues.

"He is a man already," he remarked to Lawrence; "very mature for one of his years."

"I think so," Lawrence answered, "and I hope the way will be opened for his noblest development."

"He must visit us at Belvoir; I should delight to have him spend much time in my family," Mr. Fairfax added.

"And I should be pleased to have him," responded Lawrence. "He would derive great benefit from it."

"My sons and daughters would find him a very genial companion," continued Mr. Fairfax. "I think the benefit from the society of each other would be mutual."

In this way George was introduced to the Fairfax family, with whom he spent many of his happiest days and weeks. It was one of the most favorable incidents of his young life when he was welcomed to that family, for there he enjoyed society of culture, where character, and [137]neither wealth nor honors, ranked highest. Just at that age he needed the influence of education and cultivated manners, and here he found both with the sons and daughters of Mr. Fairfax. Alternately, between this family at Belvoir and his brother's family at Mount Vernon, he enjoyed a discipline of social intercourse, better for him, in some respects, than even Mr. Williams's school.

At Belvoir George met Lord Fairfax, a relative of William Fairfax, recently from England. "He was the owner of immense domains in Virginia," says Mr. Everett. "He had inherited through his mother, the daughter of Lord Culpepper, the original grantee, a vast tract of land, originally including the entire territory between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers."

Mr. Everett says of him further: "Lord Fairfax was a man of cultivated mind, educated at Oxford, the associate of the wits of London, the author of one or two papers in the Spectator, and an habitué of the polite circles of the metropolis. A disappointment in love is said to have cast a shadow over his after life, and to have led him to pass his time in voluntary exile on his Virginia estates, watching and promoting the rapid development of the resources of the country, following the hounds through the primeval forests, and cheering his solitary hours by reading and a limited society of chosen friends."

The "love affair" to which Mr. Everett refers is explained by Mr. Irving as follows:

"In the height of his fashionable career he became strongly attached to a young lady of rank, paid his addresses, and was accepted. The wedding day was fixed; the wedding dresses were [138]provided, together with servants and equipages for the matrimonial establishment. Suddenly the lady broke her engagement. She had been dazzled by the superior brilliancy of a ducal coronet.

"It was a cruel blow alike to the affection and pride of Lord Fairfax, and wrought a change in both character and conduct. From that time he almost avoided the sex, and became shy and embarrassed in their society, excepting among those with whom he was connected or particularly intimate. This may have been among the reasons which ultimately induced him to abandon the gay world and bury himself in the wilds of America."

Lord Fairfax was charmed by the appearance of George.

"A remarkable lad," he said to his relative, William Fairfax; "so manly, so intelligent in knowledge beyond his years."

"Yet not a mere book-worm," replied William. "No boy likes games and hunting better than he."

"A capital horseman, I notice," added the nobleman; "strong and powerful for one of his years. Yet he likes books. It seems to me that he is unusually fond of reading."

Lord Fairfax possessed quite a number of valuable books, new and rare to George, who had pored over them with absorbing interest. The nobleman inferred that he must possess an unusual taste for reading, and this was really true.

"Yes, he generally wants to know what the books he meets with contain," [139]responded William. "He has made the contents of such books as he could reach his own."

"I must take him out hunting with me," continued Lord Fairfax. "He will make a good companion, I imagine."

Lord Fairfax delighted in fox-hunting. In England, before he came to this country, his best sport was found in the fox-hunt. He kept his hounds, and all the accoutrements for the chase, so that he was always prepared for the sport. He found increased pleasure in the pastime after George became his companion in the chase. The latter enjoyed it, too, with a keen relish. It was not altogether new to him; he had been occasionally on such excursions with others. But the English nobleman understood fox-hunting as no one else in Virginia did. He had learned it as practised by English lords, who live in baronial style. For this reason George enjoyed the wild sport as he never did before.

One day George was surprised by a proposition from Lord Fairfax.

"How would you like to survey my lands for me, George? You appear to understand the business."

"I should like nothing better if I can do it to suit you," George answered. "I like surveying."

"Well, the only way for me to do is to survey my land, and sell it, if I would keep 'squatters' off," added Lord Fairfax. "Squatters" were a class of persons took up their abode upon lands which did not belong to them, without leave or license.


"You can do it to suit me, I have no doubt," continued the noble lord, "and I can satisfy you as to pay."

"I will confer with Lawrence about it," said George; "and I shall want to see my mother, also, I have no doubt but that they will think well of the plan."

"That is right," answered Lord Fairfax. "Think it over carefully before you decide. You can undertake the work any time."

George was not long in consulting Lawrence, nor in securing the approval of his mother. He had frequently been home to see his mother, improving every favorable opportunity to show his filial devotion thereby. On this visit, the prospect of an honorable and remunerative pursuit added interest thereto.

Having obtained the approval of his mother and Lawrence, and formally accepted the proposition of Lord Fairfax, George set to work in earnest preparation for the task. He would be under the necessity of plunging into the wilderness, where savage beasts and savage men might confront him at almost any time. He must travel on horseback with attendants carrying his outfit at considerable disadvantage, shooting game and catching fish for food, and be absent weeks and possibly months at a time. Camping out at night, or finding a lodge in some poor cabin, breasting severe storms, encountering Indians, and other new experiences required preparation.

George William Fairfax, a son of William, accompanied him, together with two or three attendants. A writer describes the heroic boy, then sixteen years of age, as follows:


"There he is, a tall, handsome youth, with his right arm thrown across the horse's neck, and his left hand grasping his compass-staff. He is clad in a buck-skin hunting-shirt, with leggings and moccasins of the same material, the simple garb of a backwoods man, and one that well becomes him now, as in perfect keeping with the wildness of the surrounding scenery; while in his broad leathern belt are stuck the long hunting-knife and Indian tomahawk. In stature he is much above most youths of the same age. He is of a noble, robust form, with high and strong but smooth features, light brown hair, large blue eyes, not brilliant, but beaming with a clear and steady light, as if a soul looked through them that knew no taint of vice or meanness, and a countenance aglow with truth and courage, modest gentleness, and manly self-reliance."

"You must continue to keep your journal," said Lawrence; "it will be more valuable than ever to you."

George had kept a journal of events and experiences for two or three years, and his brother encouraged him in doing it as valuable discipline.

"I intend to do it," answered George, "and I shall take more interest in it because I shall have something worth recording."

"Twenty or thirty years from now you will put a higher value upon your journal than you do now," added Lawrence. "I should recommend every youth to keep a journal."

"Especially in the woods," responded George, facetiously.


"Yes, in the woods or out; no boy can afford to lose the discipline of it," rejoined Lawrence. "For so simple and easy practice it pays a large interest."

"Small investments and large income! That is what you mean," remarked George.

"Exactly; my word for it, you will find it so," added Lawrence.

That journal has proved of far more value than Lawrence predicted. After the lapse of over one hundred and thirty years, we are able to learn from it about the hardships, dangers, and severe labors of his surveying expeditions. A few extracts from letters and journal will afford an insight into that important period of his life.

He wrote to one of his friends, after an experience of several months, thus:

"Your letter gave me the more pleasure, as I received it among barbarians, and an uncouth set of people. Since you received my last letter I have not slept above three or four nights in a bed; but after walking a good deal all the day, I have lain down before the fire upon a little hay, straw, fodder, or a bear-skin—whichsoever was to be had—with man, wife, and children, like dogs and cats; and happy is he who gets the berth nearest the fire. Nothing would make it pass off tolerably but a good reward. A doubloon[A] is my constant gain every day that the weather will permit my going out, and sometimes six pistoles[B]. The coldness of the weather will not allow of my making a long stay, as the lodging is rather too [143]cold for the time of year. I have never had my clothes off, but have lain and slept in them, except the few nights I have been in Fredericksburg."

[A] $7 50.

[B] A pistole was $3.50

The entry in his journal for the third day after he started, in March, 1748, was as follows:

"Worked hard till night, and then returned. After supper we were lighted into a room; and I, not being so good a woodsman as the rest, stripped myself very orderly, and went into the bed, as they called it, when, to my surprise, I found it to be nothing but a little straw matted together, without sheet or anything else, but only one threadbare blanket, with double its weight of vermin. I was glad to get up and put on my clothes, and lie as my companions did. Had we not been very tired, I am sure that we should not have slept much that night. I made a promise to sleep so no more, choosing rather to sleep in the open air before a fire."

George commenced operations for Lord Fairfax early in March, when the mountains were still white with snow, and wintry blasts swept over the plains. The heavy rains of spring had swollen the streams into torrents, so that it was perilous to ford them. Of course the hardships of such an expedition were largely increased by the rough, cold weather of the season.

Abbot says: "The enterprise upon which Washington had entered was one [144]full of romance, toil, and peril. It required the exercise of constant vigilance and sagacity. Though these wilds may be called pathless still there were here and there narrow trails, which the moccasined foot of the savage had trodden for centuries. They led in a narrow track, scarcely two feet in breadth, through dense thickets, over craggy hills, and along the banks of placid streams or foaming torrents."

Everett says: "The hardships of this occupation will not be fully comprehended by those who are acquainted with the surveyor's duties only as they are practised in old and thickly settled countries. In addition to the want of accommodation, the service was attended by serious perils. In new countries, of which 'squatters' have begun to take possession, the surveyor is at all times a highly unwelcome visitor, and sometimes goes about his duties at the risk of his life. Besides this, a portion of the land traversed by Washington formed a part of that debatable land, the disputed right to which was the original moving cause of the 'Seven Years' War.' The French were already in motion, both from Canada and Louisiana, to preoccupy the banks of the Ohio, and the savages in their interest roamed the intervening country up to the settlements of Virginia."

Another entry in his journal is the following:

"Rained till about two o'clock, and then cleared up, when we were agreeably surprised at the sight of more than thirty Indians, coming from war with only one scalp. We had some liquor with us, of which we gave them a part. This, elevating their spirits, put them in the humor of dancing. We then had a war dance. After clearing a large space, and making a great fire in the middle, the men seated themselves around it, and the speaker made a grand speech, telling them in what manner they[145] were to dance. After he had finished, the best dancer jumped up, as one awakened from sleep, and ran and jumped about the ring in the most comical manner. He was followed by the rest. Then began their music, which was performed with a pot half full of water, and a deer skin stretched tight over it, and a gourd with some shot in it to rattle, and a piece of horse's tail tied to it to make it look fine. One person kept rattling and another drumming all the while they were dancing."

George had never seen Indians in their wigwams until his surveying expedition. He had never witnessed a war dance nor been brought face to face with these red men until he engaged in this pursuit for Lord Fairfax. The Indians were friendly, though it was known that they looked upon the encroachments of the English colonists with suspicion, if not with some bitterness. Occasionally a wandering band plundered defenceless families and spread consternation abroad. But such hostile demonstrations were exceptional.

"Strange must have been the emotions which at times agitated the bosom of this pensive, reflective, heroic boy, as at midnight, far away from the haunts of civilization, in the wigwam of the savage, he listened to the wailings of the storm, interrupted only by the melancholy cry of the night-bird, and the howl of wolves and other unknown beasts of prey. By the flickering light of the wigwam fire, he saw, sharing his couch, the dusky form of the Indian hunter, his squaw, and his pappooses."

Other entries in his journal show that George was compelled to submit to privations that were new and strange to him.

"Travelled up to Solomon Hedges', Esquire, to-day, one of [146]His Majesty's Justices of the Peace, in the county of Frederick, where we camped. When we came to supper there was neither a knife on the table nor a fork to eat with; but as good luck would have it, we had knives of our own."

George put in italics the words indicated, evidently to call attention to the poverty and degradation of some of "His Majesty's Justices." He had a high-sounding title to his name, but neither knife nor fork!

"April 8: We camped in the woods, and after we had pitched our tent and made a large fire, we pulled out our knapsacks to recruit ourselves. Every one was his own cook. Our spits were forked sticks, our plates were large chips. As for dishes, we had none."

One "blowing, rainy night," George was startled from a sound sleep by the cry of "Fire! Fire! Fire!"

He sprung to his feet half asleep, scarcely knowing what unearthly sound awoke him.

"Your bed is on fire, George," shouted the same companion. "Narrow escape for you."

Sure enough, George discovered that the straw on which he was lying had taken fire, and, but for the timely warning of his more wakeful companion, he must have been severely burned.

His diary contained such items as, "The number of acres in each lot surveyed, the quality of the soil, the height of the hills, the growth of plants and trees, the extent of the valleys, and the length, breadth, and course of the streams." On these various topics he reported to his employer, furnishing him thereby the necessary data on which to base a [147]judgment on sale of land.

Mr. Sparks, speaking of the thoroughness of his work as a surveyor, says, "Nor was his skill confined to the more simple processes of the art. He used logarithms, and proved the accuracy of his work by different methods. The manuscripts fill several quires of paper, and are remarkable for the care with which they were kept, the neatness and uniformity of the handwriting, the beauty of the diagrams, and a precise method and arrangement in copying out tables and columns of figures. These particulars will not be thought too trivial to be noticed when it is known he retained similar habits through life. His business papers, day-books, ledgers, and letter-books, in which, before the Revolution, no one wrote but himself, exhibit specimens of the same studious care and exactness. Every fact occupies a clear and distinct place."

Mr. Everett says: "He soon became distinguished for the accuracy of his surveys, and obtained the appointment of a public surveyor, which enabled him to enter his plans as legally valid in the county offices. The imperfect manner in which land surveys at that time were generally executed led in the sequel to constant litigation; but an experienced practitioner in the Western courts pronounced in after years that, of all the surveys which had come within his knowledge, those of Washington could alone be depended upon."

Mr. Weems mentions George's connection with the family of Widow Stevenson, with whom he made headquarters while surveying Frederick County, which was then very large, embracing what is now Berkeley, Jefferson, and Shenandoah Counties. She had seven sons, William, Valentine, John, Hugh, Dick, James, and Mark, all stalwart fellows. These seven young men, in Herculean size and strength, were equal, [148]perhaps, to any seven sons of any one mother in Christendom. This was a family exactly to George's mind, because promising him an abundance of that manly exercise in which he delighted.

"Come," said Valentine, "let us go out to the Green, and see who the best man is."

The "Green" was an extended level field in front of the house, a nice spot for jumping, wrestling, and other sports. By a trial to see which was "the best man," Valentine meant to see who would excel in these athletic exercises.

"Agreed," responded George, "I am tired enough to go to bed, but it always rests me to test my strength."

It was just at night, and George had just come in from a trip of several days. He came around to Mrs. Stevenson's as often as he could, though he camped in the woods at night most of the time.

"That is so with me," said Dick. "I sleep better after an Indian hug, or a few long leaps, or a hard run."

"Provided you beat," suggested John. "I don't believe that it contributes much to your sleep when you are worsted."

"Don't sleep so soundly, perhaps," replied Dick, humorously. "It would give me a pretty long nap to lay George on his back."

"Yes, I think it would," retorted George. "Perhaps you would never wake up, you would be so happy and that would be a great pity."


"Well, come," urged William, who had been a close listener, "let us see what we can do. It will get to be dark while we are talking."

And so they hurried away to the "Green" for sport. This was done again and again during his stay with the Stevensons. Mr. Weems says:

"Here it was that George, after a hard day's toil at surveying, like a young Greek training for the Olympic games, used to turn out with his sturdy young companions, 'to see,' as they termed it, 'which was the best man' at running, jumping, and wrestling. And so keen was their passion for these sports, and so great their ambition to out-do one another, that they would often keep them up, especially on moon shining nights, till bed-time. Mrs. Stevenson's sons, though not taller than George, were much heavier men; so that at wrestling, and particularly at the close or Indian Hug, he seldom gained much matter of triumphs. But in all trials of agility, they stood no chance with him."

Mr. Weems continues:

"From these Frederick County gymnastics there followed an effect which shows the very wide difference between participating in innocent and guilty pleasures. While companions in raking and gambling heartily despise and hate one another, and when they meet in the streets pass each other with looks cold and shy as sheep-thieving curs, these virtuous young men, by spending their evenings together in innocent and manly exercises, contracted a friendship which lasted for life. When George, twenty-five years after this, was called to lead the American armies, he did no[150]t forget his old friends, but gave commissions to all of them who chose to join the army. William, who was as brave a man as ever shouldered a musket, was advanced as high as the rank of colonel, when he was burned to death by the Indians at Sandusky. And equally cordial was the love of these young men for George, of whom they ever spoke as of a brother."

When Washington had attained his highest honors, and the War of Independence was over, the Stevensons loved to rehearse their runnings and wrestlings with him. Said Hugh exultingly to some friends:

"Brother John and I have often laid the conqueror of England on his back."

"But we were no match for him in running and jumping," honestly retorted John.

It was George's thorough survey and glowing description of a region beyond the Blue Ridge that induced Lord Fairfax to erect a costly stone mansion there for his trans-Atlantic home. He called it Greenaway Court, and it became one of the most beautiful and attractive estates in Virginia, where the proprietor lived in an expensive style, dispensing a generous hospitality. It was at Greenaway Court that George first read the history of England.

George's success as a surveyor for Lord Fairfax called the attention of the Virginia authorities to him, and he was appointed public surveyor, as stated by Mr. Everett, whom we have quoted, deriving a discipline therefrom which was of great service to him in his future public career. The business, also, made him familiar with the country, particularly the Shenandoah Valley, which means "Shining daughter of the stars," so that [151]he was able to invest money afterwards to great advantage in real estate.

That George did not forget his "Lowland Beauty," even after his pleasant connection with the Fairfax family, is quite evident from one of his letters to an old companion, as follows:

Dear Robin:—As it is the greatest mark of affection and esteem which absent friends can show each other to write and often communicate their thoughts, I shall endeavor from time to time to acquaint you with my situation and employments in life. And I could wish you would take half the pains to send me a letter by any opportunity, as you may be well assured of its meeting with a welcome reception. My place at present is at Lord Fairfax's, where I might, were I disengaged, pass my time very pleasantly, as there is a very agreeable young lady in the house, Colonel George Fairfax's wife's sister. But that only adds fuel to the fire, as being often and unavoidably in her company revives my former passion for your Lowland Beauty; whereas, were I to live more retired from young ladies, I might in some measure alleviate my sorrow, by burying that chaste and troublesome passion in oblivion; and I am very well assured that this will be the only antidote or remedy.

Providence was sending him to a noble destiny. We can trace the divine discipline all through the privations and responsibilities of his life as surveyor. God was preparing him for the Revolution of 1776.

Mr. Frost, one of his biographers, says: "The business of practical surveying undoubtedly formed a very important part of Washington's [152]preparation for the office of military commander. It not only hardened and invigorated the already robust frame, but it educated his eye, and accustomed him to judge respecting distances, and advantages of position. By making him an able civil engineer, it laid the foundation of his future eminence in a military capacity. It was more immediately advantageous to him by procuring for him the acquaintance of the principal landholders of the State, and by making known to them his remarkable judgment, good-sense, and ability in the conduct of affairs. The effect of this last circumstance was seen in his appointment, at the age of nineteen, to the office of adjutant-general, with the rank of major. This gave him the charge of a district, with the duty of exercising the militia, inspecting their arms, and superintending their discipline."

Lord Fairfax loved him with the love of a father, but he did not dream that he was becoming the benefactor of England's conqueror.

Mr. Weems says: "Little did the old gentleman expect that he was educating a youth who should one day dismember the British Empire, and break his own heart, which truly came to pass; for on hearing that Washington had captured Cornwallis and all his army, he called out to his black servant, 'Come, Joe, carry me to my bed, for it is high time for me to die.'"



"There is a chance for you, George, in the reorganization of the militia," remarked Lawrence, who was personally interested in a movement to improve the soldiery of Virginia.

"What chance?" George asked.

"For an appointment as my successor. The state of my health makes my resignation necessary, and you are competent to take charge of my district."

"My youth will prevent that."

"Not necessarily. Youth will not weigh so much against you as a competency will do for you. Qualifications for the place is what the authorities will require."

"And their attention will naturally be directed to older men, who are well known," suggested George.

"But I propose to present your claims, when I forward my resignation, myself," continued Lawrence.

"You have enjoyed superior opportunities to fit you for such a position; and for the appointing power to know your qualifications is to secure to you the place."

"What will be my duties if I get the appointment?" inquired George.

"You will be adjutant-general, with the rank of major, and will have [154]charge of the militia in the district. You will have to drill them at stated times, inspect their arms, and make their organization as thorough as possible."

"And give all my time to the work?"

"No, not all your time will be required. It is no small responsibility to assume, however; but you are equal to it, and it will be a grand school for you. You will have a salary of one hundred and fifty pounds, and you will be held responsible for the efficiency of the militia."

"I don't know about taking so much responsibility upon myself," responded George, whose modest estimate of his own abilities was one of his virtues. "Experience is indispensable for such a position, it seems to me, and I have not had experience."

"Well, we will see what can be done," added Lawrence. "I have made up my mind to intercede for you as my successor, as the best qualified of any man I know in this district for the position. I may fail, but I shall try."

Lawrence accomplished his purpose in due time, and George was appointed to the command of the militia in the district, although he was but nineteen years of age. No difficulty was experienced in securing the position for him, for his exploits in the role of surveyor were well known. His character and ability had also given him considerable public notoriety for one of his years.

Lawrence was in feeble health at this time. Pulmonary troubles had been gradually undermining his constitution for two or three years, although he continued to serve the colony in public relations. Winter was [155]approaching, and his physician advised a change of climate. The severity of another Virginia winter might prove too much for him.

"If I go to Barbadoes you must go with me," said Lawrence to George. "It will not be necessary for you to enter upon your new duties as commander of the district until spring."

"Then your wife will not go," answered George, inferring that his services would be required because hers could not be had.

"No; she will not be able to go, and I cannot think of going alone."

"Well, I shall be very willing to go," continued George, "and think I shall enjoy the change. That you need to escape from the Virginia winter is very evident. You are not as well as you were six months ago."

"No one can be so conscious of that as myself," remarked Lawrence, with a degree of sadness that pierced George's heart. "I have failed very fast within the last three months, and I sometimes doubt whether a change of climate will do me any good."

"Perhaps your view of the case is too gloomy," suggested George, whom we ought to call Major Washington now, but will not at present. "I believe that the foreign air will put new life into you."

"That is what I need," responded Lawrence, "for the old life within me is rapidly dying out. I must get new strength from some source, or my days are numbered."

Lawrence was very much depressed at this time, and he was also peevish [156]and difficult to please. George could manage him better than any one else, except his wife, for the reason that his confidence in his young brother was unbounded. The latter knew how to encourage the sick man without concealing from him his true condition. Lawrence was certainly in a very critical state of health, and his physician had so announced to his friends. George was alarmed about his brother, although he was confident that a winter in Barbadoes would put him in the way of complete restoration.

It was settled that they should spend the winter in Barbadoes, and hasty preparations were made for the voyage. George had accepted his appointment, but, now arranged to enter upon the duties of the office after his return. He was glad to be able to accompany his brother to a more favorable clime.

We have not space to record their experience abroad in detail. It will answer our purpose to record the fact that a change of climate did not improve Lawrence Washington. On the whole, he continued to fail, so that he returned to Virginia late in the spring of 1751, a weaker and less happy man. His sojourn in a warmer country through the winter and spring months proved that he was beyond hope of recovery.

George had one experience in Barbadoes that we must record. He was attacked by the small-pox with considerable severity, occasioning much anxiety to Lawrence. However, he rallied from the attack more rapidly than was expected, his good physical condition enabling him to resist disease as weaker ones cannot. But he carried the marks of the loathsome disease through life.

George kept a journal when abroad, as he had done at home, and the entries concerning the small-pox are as follows:


"Nov. 4, 1751.—This morning received a card from Major Clarke, welcoming us to Barbadoes, with an invitation to breakfast and dine with him. We went—myself with some reluctance, as the small-pox was in the family. We were received in the most kind and friendly manner by him."

That he took the small-pox when on this friendly visit is evident from the entry in his journal for Nov. 17, as follows:

"Was strongly attacked with the small-pox. Sent for Dr. Lanahan, whose attendance was very constant till my recovery and going out, which were not till Thursday, the 12th of December."

We ought to state that in February of 1752, as there was no perceptible improvement in Lawrence, Dr Lanahan decided that he should remove to Bermuda in the early spring. This would prolong his stay, and it was agreed that George should return to Virginia, and accompany Mrs. Washington and children to Bermuda, where she would meet her husband.

George returned, reaching Mount Vernon about the 1st of April. But Lawrence continued to fail in health, which modified his plans, so that he relinquished the idea of going to Bermuda, preferring rather to return to his native land and die. His wife remained at home to await his coming, about the 1st of June. He lived but six or seven weeks after reaching Mount Vernon, and died on the 26th of July, at the age of thirty-four. Conscious that his speedy death was inevitable, he made every arrangement necessary for the sad change. He had large possessions, which he left to his wife and only child, though he showed his strong attachment to George by a liberal legacy. In the event of his [158]child's death, the Mount Vernon estate would revert to George. The child did not long survive, whereupon this valuable estate came into George's possession. Although he was but twenty years old when his brother died, he was the chief executor of his will.

Mr. Everett says of him: "George was appointed one of the executors of his will, by which, in the event of the daughter's decease, Mount Vernon was bequeathed to him. Although the youngest of the executors, in consequence of his more thorough knowledge of his brother's affairs, the responsible management of his extensive estates devolved upon him. He did not, however, allow these private engagements to interfere with his public duties. As the probability of a collision on the frontier increased, greater attention was paid to the military organization of the province. On the arrival of Governor Dinwiddie from England in 1752, it was divided into four military districts, and Washington's appointment was renewed as adjutant-general of the northern division, in which several counties were included. The duties devolving upon him under this commission, in attending the reviews of the militia and superintending their exercises, were performed with a punctuality and zeal, which rapidly drew towards him the notice and favor of the community."

On the 4th of November, 1852, George was initiated into the Masonic Lodge of "Free and Accepted Masons" at Fredericksburg, and on the third of March following, he was advanced to the second degree of fellowcraft, and on the 4th of August next after, he was made a Master Mason.

Governor Dinwiddie's renewal of George's commission on his return, imposed immediate military duties upon him. The organization and drilling of the militia, inspection of their arms and accoutrements, together with other duties, made a large draft upon his thoughts and [159]labors. Still, he found time to be with his brother Lawrence during his declining moments, and was with him when he died, performing the last deeds of fraternal love in a manner that honored his noble nature.

There was a growing excitement now about the encroachments of the French, and the Colonists began to feel that their rights and honor were at stake. It was quite evident that the French designed to gain ascendency in North America, while the English considered that their claim to its rule was pre-eminent. The French had established a line of military fortified posts from Canada to the southern part of the Mississippi, and they were fast securing a foothold in the beautiful valley of the Ohio.

The English said: "England discovered this country fifty years ago, and has a better right to it than the French have."

France denied this claim, because "her ships were the first which entered the River St. Lawrence, and her voyagers, ascending the magnificent stream, discovered that series of majestic lakes, whose fertile shores presented inviting homes for countless millions. Her enterprising explorers, in the birch canoe, travelled the solitary windings of the Ohio and the Mississippi."

At the same time the Indians justly claimed right and title to the whole country as the aboriginal inhabitants. Both English and French might purchase it, or portions of it, of them, but in no other way could they gain possession of it without becoming interlopers and robbers. So here was a fine opportunity for trouble. A keen, quick-witted chief, assuming to ridicule the claims of the English and French, sarcastically said to Mr. Gist, a representative of the Virginian Colonists:


"Whereabouts do the Indian lands lie, since the French claim all the land on one side of the Ohio River and the English all on the other?"

Governor Dinwiddie found it necessary to send an ambassador to the French on the Ohio, to inquire into their claims and purposes.

"It is a responsible and perilous undertaking," he said to Mr. Gist. "Who is equal to it?"

"I am sure I cannot tell," Mr. Gist replied. "There ought to be in this famous colony some spirit brave enough to accept the mission, and fully competent to execute it."

"Yes; but who is it?"

"I am unable to answer."

"But we must find him," continued the governor. "The time has fully come for Virginia to defend the rights of Great Britain."

"There can be no doubt about that," replied Mr. Gist; "but who will endure the hardships and risk his life on a mission to the Ohio is more than I can tell."

A writer says of the project: "It was indeed a perilous enterprise; one from which the noblest spirit might recoil. The first garrison which could be reached was on the Ohio River, about one hundred and twenty miles below the point where Pittsburg now stands. Here the French were erecting a strong fortress, to which the Indians resorted for trade. [161]There was an intervening wilderness, from the settlements in Virginia, to be traversed, of pathless forests, gloomy morasses, craggy mountains, and almost impenetrable thickets, of nearly six hundred miles. Bands of savages on the war-path or engaged in the hunt were ever ranging these wilds. Many were exasperated by wrongs which they themselves had received, and of which they had heard, inflicted by the white men. The Indians in all these northwest regions had welcomed the French as brothers, and truly fraternal relationship existed between them; and they had nearly all learned to hate the English.... It would be very easy for the French so to arrange matters, that a band of savages should massacre and plunder the party of the commissioners, in the depths of the forest, under such circumstances that it would necessarily be regarded as merely a savage outrage."

In these circumstances, Governor Dinwiddie found it difficult to secure a responsible party to accept the commission. He offered it to certain men in whom he had great confidence, but all of them declined. At length, however, Major Washington, as we will call George now, waited upon the governor, and surprised him by saying:

"I have come, Governor Dinwiddie, to offer my services as commissioner to Ohio. If you consider me competent for the position, I will accept it, and do the best I can."

"Certainly you are competent for this business," answered the governor, "and you are as brave as you are competent. It is a perilous undertaking, and may cost you your life."

"I understand that," responded the major; "and I have come to this decision after weighing well the difficulties and dangers. My occupation [162]as surveyor has inured me to hardships, and given me some acquaintance with Indian life and character."

"That is true," remarked the governor, who was familiar with young Washington's success in surveying, as well as with his knowledge of military affairs, "and that experience will be of great value on such a mission as this. I will appoint you commissioner at once, with full powers to plan and perform the expedition."

"And what are your wishes about the time of starting?" inquired Washington.

"As soon as your preparations can be consummated," Governor Dinwiddie answered. "Winter is near by, and the sooner you can start the better."

"I can be ready within a few days," replied Washington, his answer furnishing a good illustration of his promptness.

"Just as you please; the whole responsibility is with you, and I will forward your commission as soon as possible," the governor said.

We are able to furnish the commission under which Washington acted on that important mission, as follows:

I, reposing especial trust in the ability, conduct, and fidelity of you, the said George Washington, have appointed you my express messenger; and you are hereby authorized and empowered to proceed hence, with all convenient and possible despatch, to that part or place on the River Ohio where the French have lately erected a fort or forts, or where the commandant of the French forces resides, in order to deliver my letter and message [163]to him; and, after waiting not exceeding one week for an answer, you are to take leave and return immediately back.

To this commission I have set my hand, and caused the great seal of this Dominion to be affixed, at the city of Williamsburg, the seat of my government, this thirtieth day of October, in the twenty-seventh year of the reign of King George the Second, King of Great Britain, Annoque Domini, 1753. Robert Dinwiddie.

The news of Washington's voluntary offer to act as commissioner to the French on the Ohio was received with great satisfaction by the Colonists. They took occasion both in public and private to extol his bravery and unselfishness. To a less humble and modest young man the enthusiastic demonstration in his honor would have proved too flattering; but no amount of such praise could develop vanity in Washington.

Hastily he prepared for the expedition. When ready to start, the company consisted of eight persons, as follows: Washington; Christopher Gist; John Davidson, an interpreter for the Indians; Jacob Van Braam, his old fencing-master, who could speak French; Henry Steward and William Jenkins, experienced "woodsmen;" and two Indian guides, Barnaby Currin and John McQuire. Mr. Gist was eminently qualified for the post given to him; for having made a settlement between the northwestern ridge of the Alleghanies and Monongahela River, he had often traversed the country, and was well acquainted with the habits of the Indians in the neighborhood through which their route lay.


Before starting upon this perilous mission, Washington paid a flying visit to his mother, who was dearer to him than any other living person. The announcement that he was to proceed to the Ohio at once filled her with alarm at first, and she thoroughly regretted that he had assumed the responsibility. However, she took a favorable view of the enterprise, and said:

"It is a very responsible trust to be committed to one of your age, George, but God will give you wisdom and watch over you, if you commit your ways to Him. My prayers shall not cease to go up for your success and return."

With such emotions as unfeigned filial love creates, Washington parted from his mother.

The following is a copy of the letter which Washington carried from Governor Dinwiddie to the French commander on the Ohio:

Sir:—The lands upon the River Ohio, in the western parts of the Colony of Virginia, are so notoriously known to be the property of the Crown of Great Britain, that it is a matter of equal concern and surprise to me to hear that a body of French forces are erecting fortresses and making settlements upon that river, within his Majesty's dominions. The many and repeated complaints I have received of these acts of hostility lay me under the necessity of sending, in the name of the king, my master, the bearer hereof, George Washington, Esq., one of the adjutants-general of the forces of this dominion, to complain to you of the encroachments thus made, and of the injuries done to the subjects of Great Britain, in violation of the law of nations, and the treaties now subsisting between the two [165]crowns. If these facts be true, and you think fit to justify your proceedings, I must desire you to acquaint me by whose authority and instructions you have lately marched from Canada with an armed force, and invaded the King of Great Britain's territories, in the manner complained of; that, according to the purpose and resolution of your answer, I may act agreeably to the commission I am honored with, from the king, my master. However, sir, in obedience to my instructions, it becomes my duty to require your peaceable departure; and that you will forbear prosecuting a purpose so interruptive of the harmony and good understanding which his Majesty is desirous to continue and cultivate with the most Christian king. Robert Dinwiddie.


Washington left Williamsburg on the thirty-first day of October, 1753. He proceeded to Fredericksburg, where Van Braam joined him, thence to Alexandria and Winchester for supplies and horses, but did not arrive at Will's Creek, where Mr. Gist and others of the party were found, until Nov. 14.

"Now we must depend on you, Mr. Gist, to pilot us through the [166]wilderness," said Washington. "My knowledge of the way ends about where yours begins, I suspect; so we shall commit ourselves to your care."

"Well, I shall take a straight course to Frazier's, on the Monongahela River," answered Gist.

"And who is Frazier?" inquired Washington.

"He is an Indian trader, who lives at the mouth of Turtle Creek."

"Well acquainted with the country, I suppose he is," suggested Washington.

"He ought to be, for he has been at his business several years, and is an intelligent, responsible man."

"Such a man as we need to see, I should think," continued Washington; "so I agree to follow you to Frazier's without a single objection."

"A storm is brewing, and will soon be upon us," said Mr. Gist. "I fear that a hard time awaits us."

"I expect as much as that," replied Washington. "Such a journey as we propose can be no child's play at any season of the year."

That a storm impeded their progress is quite evident from Washington's journal:


"The excessive rains and vast quantity of snow which had fallen prevented our reaching Mr. Frazier, the Indian trader's, until Thursday, the 22d."

"The French general is dead," was the first announcement of Mr. Frazier, on learning the object of the expedition.

"What!" exclaimed Washington, "General Pierre Paul?"

"Yes; messengers have been sent to the Indian traders down the river announcing his death, and the return of the major part of the army into winter quarters," answered Frazier.

"A sudden death, no doubt, and it must necessitate some change in the present plans of the French," remarked Washington.

"Doubtless," replied Frazier. "He died on the twenty-ninth day of October, nearly a month ago. It will not affect your business, however."

"No; but this torrent will," answered Washington, alluding to the impassable waters of the Monongahela, which the rains had swollen to a flood.

"No crossing here except by swimming the horses."

"And that will be hardly advisable," rejoined Frazier, "since you can take your baggage down to the fork of the Ohio in a canoe."

"A good suggestion," said Washington. "Can you provide me with a canoe?"

"Fortunately I can, and shall be glad to render you any other assistance possible. It is ten miles to the fork, and you will reach there with the horses before the canoe with the baggage."


Washington engaged the canoe, loaded the baggage upon it, and sent Currin and Steward down the river with it, while he went with the horses and the rest of the party by land. He arrived at the fort in advance of the canoe, and improved the time to visit Shingiss, King of the Delawares, a warrior who had been a terror to the English on the frontier, though he was now their friend.

Shingiss received Washington in a friendly manner, though with manifest reserve. When he learned what was the object of his mission, and that an Indian Council was proposed at Logstown, his friendliness grew into cordiality, and he promised not only to be present at the Council, but to accompany Washington and his party thither.

They arrived at Logstown on the evening of Nov. 24. Washington inquired for Tanacharisson, the half-king, and found that he was out at his hunting cabin on Little Beaver Creek, fifteen miles away. Tanacharisson was called half-king because his authority was subject to that of the Five Nations.

As the half-king was absent, he repaired to Monacatoocha, with John Davidson, his Indian interpreter, and informed him that he was sent a messenger to the French general, and was ordered to call upon the sachems of the Six Nations to acquaint them with it.

"I gave him a string of wampum and a twist of tobacco," says Washington in his journal, "and desired him to send for the half-king, which he promised to do by a 'runner' in the morning, and for other sachems. I invited him and the other great men present to my tent, where they stayed about an hour, and returned."


At this place Washington met four Frenchmen who had deserted from a company at Kuskuskas, an Indian town on Big Beaver Creek, Pennsylvania. Through Van Braam, he inquired:

"Where do you hail from now?"

"From New Orleans. We were sent with a hundred men and eight canoe loads of provisions to this place, where we expected to meet as many more men from the forts on this side of Lake Erie, to convey them and the stores up."

"What about the French forts near New Orleans?"

"There are four small forts between New Orleans and Twigtwies," one of the Frenchmen said.

"And how many men?" Washington asked.

"About forty, and a few pieces of artillery."

"What is there at New Orleans?"

"A large fort at the mouth of the Mississippi, with thirty-five companies of forty men each."

"How many guns does the fort mount?"

"Eight carriage guns."

"Quite a formidable affair," remarked Washington. "With courage and [170]skill to correspond they can withstand quite a siege; and what is there at Twigtwies?"

"Several companies, and a fort mounting six guns."

"And is that all?"

"Not exactly. There is a small fort on the Ohio, at the mouth of the Obaish (Wabash), garrisoned by a few men."

The information he gathered from these men was valuable to him and the Virginia authorities.

As soon as the half-king returned, Washington called upon him with his interpreter, making known his business, and inviting him to his own tent. The chief cordially accepted the invitation, and he accompanied him on his return.

"I understand that you have visited the French commander, to whom I am going," remarked Washington, "and perhaps you can give me some information about the ways and distance."

"The nearest and levelest way," answered the half-king, "is now impassable on account of many deep and miry savannas."

"Then we must adopt the next best way," suggested Washington.

"Yes; and that is by the way of Venango, at the confluence of French Creek and the Alleghany," said Tanacharisson.

"How great is the distance?"

"You cannot get to the nearest fort in less than five or six nights' [171]sleep, good travelling."

"How were you received at the fort?" continued Washington, anxious to make the most of his informant.

"General Pierre Paul was alive then, and he received me sternly," replied the chief.

"In what way did he show his sternness?" Washington asked.

"By his abrupt inquiry, 'What did you come here about?' And he ordered me, in an insolent way, to declare my business."

"And what did you tell him?" urged Washington.

"I made this speech to him," the half-king answered with a smile; and he proceeded to rehearse his address to the French commander. As Washington preserved the speech of Tanacharisson, together with the French general's reply, we furnish the remainder of the interview from that valuable document:

"Fathers, I am come to tell you your own speeches, what your own mouths have declared.

"Fathers, you, in former days, set a silver basin before us, wherein there was the leg of a beaver, and desired all the nations to come and eat of it,—to eat in peace and plenty, and not to be churlish to one another; and that if any such person should be found to be a disturber, I here lay down by the edge of the dish a rod, which you must scourge them with; and if you[172]r father should get foolish, in my old days, I desire you may use it upon me as well as others.

"Now, fathers, it is you who are the disturbers in this land, by coming and building your towns, and taking it away unknown to us, and by force.

"Fathers, we kindled a fire a long time ago at a place called Montreal, where we desired you to stay, and not to come and intrude upon our land. I now desire you may dispatch to that place; for be it known to you, fathers, that this is our land, and not yours.

"Fathers, I desire you may hear me in civilness; if not, we must handle that rod which was laid down for the use of obstreperous. If you had come in a peaceable manner, like our brothers, the English, we would not have been against your trading with us as they do; but to come, fathers, and build houses upon our land, and to take it by force, is what we cannot submit to.

"Fathers, both you and the English are white; we live in a country between; therefore the land belongs to neither one nor the other. But the Great Being above allowed it to be a place of residence for us; So, fathers, I desire you to withdraw, as I have done our brothers, the English; for I will keep you at arm's length. I lay this down as a trial for both, to see which will have the greatest regard to it, and that side we will stand by, and make equal sharers with us. Our brothers, the English, have heard this, and I come now to tell it to you, for I am not afraid to discharge you off this land."


This, he said, was the substance of what he spoke to the general, who made this reply:

"'Now, my child, I have heard your speech; you spoke first, but it is my time to speak now. Where is my wampum that you took away with the marks of towns on it? This wampum I do not know, which you have discharged me off the land with; but you need not put yourself to the trouble of speaking, for I will not hear you. I am not afraid of flies or mosquitoes, for Indians are such as those; I tell you down that river I will go, and build upon it, according to my command. If the river was blocked up, I have forces sufficient to burst it open, and tread under my feet all that stand in opposition, together with their alliances, for my force is as the sand upon the seashore; therefore, here is your wampum. I sling it at you. Child, you talk foolish; you say this land belongs to you, but there is not the black of my nail yours. I saw that land sooner than you did; before the Shannoahs and you were at war. Lead was the man who went down and took possession of that river. It is my land, and I will have it, let who will stand up for or say against it. I will buy and sell with the English (mockingly). If people will be ruled by me they may expect kindness, but not else.'

"The half-king told me he had inquired of the general after two Englishmen who were made prisoners, and received this answer:

"'Child, you think it a very great hardship that I made prisoners of those two people at Venango. Don't you concern yourself with it; we took and carried them to Canada, to get intelligence of what the English were doing in Virginia.'[174]

"He informed me that they had built two forts; one on Lake Erie, and another on French Creek, near a small lake, about fifteen miles asunder, and a large wagon-road between. They are both built after the same model, but different in size, that on the lake the largest. He gave me a plan of them of his own drawing."

The Indians inquired very particularly after their brothers in Carolina jail.

They also asked what sort of a boy it was who was taken from the South Branch, for they were told by some Indians that a party of "French Indians had carried a white boy by Kuskheskia Town, towards the lakes."

The Indian Council which Washington convened, assembled at nine o'clock, on the twenty-sixth day of November, and he made the following speech to the rude children of the forest:

"Brothers, I have called you together in council, by order of your brother, the governor of Virginia, to acquaint you that I am sent with all possible despatch to visit and deliver a letter to the French commandant of very great importance to your brothers, the English, and I dare say to you, their friends and allies.

"I was desired, brothers, by your brother, the governor, to call upon you, the sachems of the nations, to inform you of it, and to ask your advice and assistance to proceed the nearest and best road to the French. You see, brothers, I have gotten thus far on my journey.


"His Honor likewise desired me to apply to you for some of your young men to conduct and provide provisions for us on our way, and be a safe-guard against those French Indians who have taken up the hatchet against us. I have spoken thus particularly to you, brothers, because his Honor, our governor, treats you as good friends and allies, and holds you in great esteem. To confirm what I have said, I give you this string of wampum."

The sachems listened to this speech with profound attention, noting every word; and when Major Washington concluded, they conferred together for some time, when Tanacharisson arose, and replied:

"Now, my brother, in regard to what my brother, the governor, had desired of me, I return you this answer:

"I rely upon you as a brother ought to do, as you say we are brothers and one people. We shall put heart in hand, and speak to our fathers, the French, concerning the speech they made to me; and you may depend that we will endeavor to be your guard.

"Brother, as you have asked my advice, I hope you will be ruled by it, and stay until I can provide a company to go with you. The French speech belt is not here; I have to go for it to my hunting cabin. Likewise, the people whom I have ordered in are not yet come, and cannot until the third night from this; until which time, brother, I must beg you to stay. I intend to send the guard of Rincoes, Shannoahs, and Delawares, that our brothers may see the love and loyalty we bear them."

Washington replied to the half-king:[176]

"Brother, your offer is a very generous one, for which I heartily thank you; but my orders are to make all possible despatch, so that I am obliged to leave, much against my inclination. My business requires the greatest expedition, and will not admit of so much delay."

"We are sorry for this decision, brother," continued Tanacharisson; "but we shall not permit you to go without a guard, lest some accident befall you, and, in consequence, reflection be cast upon us. Besides, this is a matter of no small moment, and must not be entered into without due consideration; for I intend to deliver up the French speech belt, and make the Shannoahs and Delawares do the same."

Accordingly the half-king gave orders to the King Shingiss, who was present, to attend on Wednesday night with the wampum, and two men of their nation to be in readiness to set out with Washington and his party in the morning. But Washington did not leave as he designed, because he found that the sachems would be greatly offended if he did. His journal says: "I found it was impossible to go off without offending them in the most egregious manner."

The entry in his journal for the next day, Nov. 27, is:

"Runners were despatched very early for the Shannoah chiefs. The half-king himself set out to fetch the French speech belt from his hunting cabin."

On the following evening, Nov. 28, Tanacharisson returned with the French speech belt, and came to Washington's tent in company with Monacatoocha and two other sachems.[177]

"An Indian from Venango," said Monacatoocha, "has brought news that the French have called all the Mingoes, Delawares, and several other tribes together, and told them that they intended to have been down the river this fall, but the waters were growing cold, and the winter advancing, which obliged them to go into quarters, but that they might assuredly expect them in the spring with a far greater number, and requested them to remain passive, and not inter-meddle unless they had a mind to draw all their force upon them, for that they expected to fight the English three years, in which time they should conquer; but that if they should prove equally strong, the French and the English would join to cut them all off and divide the land between them; that, though they had lost their general and some few of their soldiers, yet there were men enough to reinforce them, and make them masters of the Ohio."

Washington inquired concerning the reliability of this information, and was told that "one Captain Joncaire, their interpreter-in-chief, living at Venango, and a man of note in the army, delivered the speech to us."

On the next morning, the half-king and Monacatoocha appeared very early at Washington's tent, and besought him to wait another day.

"We have used all diligence possible, but the Shannoah chiefs have not brought the wampum ordered, but will be here to-night," the half-king said. "If they should not come in to-night, we will not delay you another day, but will send it after you as soon as it arrives."

Washington yielded to their request, giving the reason in his journal thus:


"When I found them so pressing in their request, and knew that the returning of wampum[C] was the abolishing of agreements, and giving this up was shaking off all dependence upon the French, I consented to stay, as I believed an offence offered at this crisis might be attended with greater ill-consequence than another day's delay."

[C] Small beads made of shells, used for money.

Washington's journal continues:

"In the evening, late, they came again, and acquainted me that the Shannoahs were not yet arrived, but that it should not retard the prosecution of our journey. He delivered in my hearing the speech that was to be made to the French by Jeskakake, one of their old chiefs, which was giving up the belt the late commandant had asked for, and repeating nearly the same speech he himself had done before.

"He also delivered a string of wampum to this chief, which was sent by King Shingiss, to be given to Kustalogo, with orders to repair to the French and deliver up the wampum.

"He likewise gave a very large string of black and white wampum, which was to be sent up immediately to the Six Nations, if the French refused to quit the land at this warning, which was the third and last time, and was the right of this Jeskakake to deliver."

On the evening before Washington left the place, the great men of the Indians assembled at their council-house, to discuss the journey, and decide who should go. The result was, that, instead of the numerous [179]convoy promised, they concluded to send but three of their chiefs and one famous hunter.

When the company were ready to start, about nine o'clock, on the morning of Nov. 30, and Washington found that his escort consisted only of the half-king, Jeskakake, White Thunder, and the Hunter, he said to Tanacharisson:

"Brother, how is this? This is not the complete guard you promised me."

"Very true, brother," answered the half-king, "but be assured there is no intention to be untrue. When we conferred together last night it was thought so large a number might give the French suspicions of evil designs, and cause them to treat us rudely."

The journey was resumed, and proved very wearisome on account of stormy weather and hard traveling. They reached Venango, seventy miles distant, on the fourth day of December. Venango was situated at the mouth of French Creek, on the Ohio.

Seeing the French colors flying from the house of Mr. John Frazier, an English subject, whom they had driven from his house, Washington repaired thither at once, to inquire where the commander of the French forces resided. He found three officers there, one of whom, Captain Joncaire, of whom Monacatoocha had spoken, said:

"I command the French now."


Washington had made known his business, whereupon Captain Joncaire referred him to an officer in another fort farther on.

"But you will stop and dine with us?" said the captain in a very cordial manner. "We shall feel honored by your company."

Washington accepted the invitation, which turned to his advantage beyond his expectations; for the French officers imbibed so much wine that they became talkative, as well as communicative, and imparted information which they would have withholden when sober.

"The French design to take possession of the Ohio." said one of the tipsy officers, "and they will do it in spite of all opposition. We know that the English can raise two men to our one, but they are so mortal slow that we can accomplish our object while they are getting ready. The French have an undoubted right to this river, and they will maintain it."

Washington appreciated his opportunity to gain information, and he plied his inquiries for that purpose. He learned that the French had about fifteen hundred men between that place and Lake Ontario, but that all except six hundred of them were recalled after the death of General Pierre Paul. He learned, also, the number of forts the French had erected, and where situated, together with the number of men required to garrison each. Hence, the information acquired was worth much more than his dinner.



Monsieur La Force and three other soldiers accompanied Washington to see the commander at the next fort. The French officers resorted to various stratagems to prevent Tanacharisson, Jeskakake, White Thunder, and the Hunter going with Washington. The latter understood very well that their object was to have an opportunity to win them over to the French. But Washington insisted upon their going with him, and rebuked Captain Joncaire for his meddlesome disposition.

They were four days on their way to visit the commander, being obliged to wade through miry swamps much of the way. They reached the fort on the eleventh day of December.

On the 12th, Washington waited upon the commander of the fort and made known his business, at the same time presenting him with the letter of Governor Dinwiddie. Returning the letter, the officer said:

"The proper officer for you to see is Monsieur Reparti, whom the French government has commissioned to fill the position made vacant by the death of General Pierre Paul. He arrived seven days ago, and is expected at this fort every hour."

Monsieur Reparti did not arrive until the next day, when the second officer in command introduced Washington to him. He received Governor Dinwiddie's letter, and retired to translate it. In a short time, however, he sent for Washington and his interpreter to correct the translation, and see that it was well understood. Then dismissing Washington, Reparti called his officers to a council of war. While the [182]French officers were thus engaged in secret, Washington had a good opportunity to ascertain the dimensions and equipments of the fort, and draw a plan of the same. He lost no time in making observations which would be of great benefit to his government. The following is a description of the fort which he recorded at the time to carry to Governor Dinwiddie:

"It is situated on the south or west fork of French Creek, near the water, and is almost surrounded by the creek and a small branch of it, which form a kind of island. Four houses compose the sides. The bastions are made of piles driven into the ground, standing more than twelve feet above it, and sharp at top, with port-holes cut for cannon, and loop-holes for the small arms to fire through. There are eight six-pound pieces mounted in each bastion, and one piece of four pounds before the gate. In the bastions are a guard-house, chapel, doctor's lodging, and the commander's private store, round which are laid platforms for the cannon and men to stand on. There are several barracks without the fort, for the soldiers' dwellings, covered, some with bark and some with boards, made chiefly of logs. There are also several other houses, such as stables, smith's shop, etc.


"I could get no certain account of the number of men here; but, according to the best judgment I could form, there are a hundred, exclusive of officers, of whom there are many. I also gave orders to the people who were with me to take an exact account of the canoes which were hauled up to convey their forces down in the spring. This they did, and sold fifty of birch-bark, and a hundred and seventy of pine, besides many others, which were blocked out, in readiness for being made."

In his interview with the commander, Washington inquired of him: "By what authority have the French made prisoners of several of our English subjects?"

"The country belongs to us," answered the commander, "and no Englishman has a right to trade upon these waters. I have orders to make prisoners of every Englishman who attempts it on these waters."

"How about the boy who was captured and carried through this place?" asked Washington.

"That a boy was captured and carried past here, I will not deny," replied Reparti, "but I do not remember the name of the place he came from, nor understand the facts in the case particularly. The Indians had two or three scalps with them also."

"But I was told at Venango that they had eight?" retorted Washington.

Reparti was embarrassed here, and evaded an answer.

"What has been done with John Trotter and James McClochlan, two Pennsylvania traders, whom the French captured and carried away with all their goods?" continued Washington.

"They were sent to Canada, but I understand that they have now gone home," Reparti answered.

On the next day Washington received the commander's reply to Governor Dinwiddie's letter, and therefore was ready to return. The snow was [184]deep, the weather stormy, and the horses exhausted, so that the homeward journey was undertaken with much discouragement.

When about ready to start, Washington found that the French were presenting large inducements to his Indian guides to remain. He was obliged to resort to strategy, and finally to reprimand, to frustrate their plans. When the French officers saw that all their efforts to detain them were fruitless, they offered them intoxicating liquors in order to overcome them. This device would have succeeded, as the Indians loved rum, but for Washington's emphatic protest. He charged the French officers with base efforts to hinder his mission, and forbade half-king, with imposing threats, to touch the liquor. In this way he succeeded in his purpose to start on his return journey.

Just before starting, however, White Thunder received an injury, making it necessary for half-king to stay over with him until the next day, and take him down the river in a canoe.

"Captain Joncaire will have a good opportunity to bribe you," suggested Washington.

"Never," replied the half-king; "I know the French better than you do. I am a friend to the English."

"But Captain Joncaire is a plausible Frenchman, and he will do his best to influence you," retorted Washington. "You must be guarded against his fair speech."

The result of this interview was, that the whole party waited for White Thunder until the next day.

The hardships of the return journey exceeded by far their previous [185]experience, as indicated by Washington's journal:

"We had a tedious and very fatiguing passage down the creek. Several times we had liked to have been staved against rocks, and many times were obliged all hands to get out and remain in the water half an hour or more, getting over the shoals. At one place the ice had lodged, and made it impassable by water; we were therefore obliged to carry our canoe across the neck of land, a quarter of a mile over. We did not reach Venango until the 22d, where we met with our horses.

"This creek is extremely crooked. I dare say the distance between the fort and Venango cannot be less than one hundred and thirty miles, to follow the meanders."

At Venango the horses, which Currin took there by land, were met, and the men relieved them by distributing the baggage among themselves in packs. In this way they traveled three days, the snow all the while increasing, and the horses becoming weaker and weaker. Washington saw that to keep with the party would delay his arrival at Williamsburg until the House of Burgesses had adjourned, which would be a disappointment to the public, as well as to the governor. If possible, the governor should receive his report before the adjournment of the Assembly.

"There is only one way for us to go Mr. Gist," said Washington; "you and I must strike right through the wilderness alone, leaving the party to reach there as best they can. My report will be too late if we plod along in this way."


"It may be later if we undertake so perilous an adventure alone," responded Gist. "There is not one chance in ten of our ever reaching Williamsburg in that way."

"You are too fearful altogether," replied Washington. "I think you and I are equal to the undertaking. No doubt we shall have a rough time of it, but we are used to that; it will be no novelty to us."

"I shall abide by your decision," added Gist, "for you are commander of this expedition, and my duty is to obey. But I believe that both of us will repent of ever undertaking such an adventure."

"Well, then, I will take the responsibility," said Washington, "and you and I will take the nearest and quickest route home."

"Which may prove the longest, both in distance and time," retorted Gist.

Washington put the remainder of the party, together with the baggage and horses, into the care of Van Braam, with instructions and money. He himself had traveled for three days in an "Indian's walking dress," but now made a change described in his journal thus:

"I took my necessary papers, pulled off my clothes, and tied myself up in a watch-coat. Then, with gun in hand and pack on my back, in which were my papers and provisions, I set out with Mr. Gist, fitted in the same manner, on Wednesday, the 26th."

They traveled eighteen miles on that day, and stopped for the night at an Indian cabin. Washington usually traveled on horseback, so that he was unused to the hardships of such a journey on foot, and he was much exhausted.


They arose at two o'clock in the morning to continue their journey. When they reached Murdering Town, they fell in with an Indian who called Mr. Gist by name.

"I saw you at Venango," said the Indian.

Then Mr. Gist recognized him as an Indian whom he saw at Joncaire's in Venango, when they were on their journey to the French fort, which fact made him somewhat suspicious of the redskin.

"I am glad to see you," insisted the Indian. "How does it happen that you are traveling on foot in this direction?"

"Our business requires it," was Gist's short reply.

"When did you leave Venango?" the Indian continued.

Mr. Gist informed him.

"Where did you leave your horses and the rest of your party?"

Mr. Gist answered evasively.

"And where are you going?"

"To the forks of the Alleghany as direct as we can go," Washington answered. "Can you go with us and show us the nearest way?"

"I can just as well as not," replied the Indian, "and I can take your [188]pack along, too."

From this point Washington was considerably relieved by transferring his pack to the back of the savage. They traveled very rapidly for ten miles, when Washington's feet grew sore, and he became very weary.

"You are taking us too much northeasterly," said Mr. Gist to the Indian, suspicious that he was intentionally taking them out of their way.

"That is what I think," added Washington. "I am quite confident that we are bearing too much to the northeast."

The truth was, that both Washington and Mr. Gist were suspicious that the Indian was proving treacherous, though neither of them suggested the idea to the other.

"But let us encamp here," continued Washington, "for I need rest."

"I will carry your gun, and that will relieve you," said the Indian, a suggestion that strengthened suspicions already awakened.

"No; I prefer to carry my own gun," replied Washington; "you will do your part if you carry my pack."

"But it is not safe to encamp here," the Indian added, "for Ottawa Indians hunt in these woods, and they will scalp an Englishman wherever they find him. But if you will go to my cabin you are safe."

"And where is your cabin?" inquired Gist.

"So near that we could hear a gun if fired there now," the Indian [189]replied.

Although strongly suspicious of his designs, both followed him for a distance, steering in a more northerly direction. Gist grew uneasy, and stopping, said, "I will go no farther."

"A whoop could be heard at my cabin now," the Indian insisted. "We shall soon be there."

They traveled two miles farther, when Washington remarked:

"I shall stop at the next place we find water, and you must stop, too," addressing the Indian. This was said in a decisive manner. In a few moments they emerged from the woods into a long meadow. The Indian was three or four rods in advance of them. Suddenly stopping and turning about, the treacherous savage aimed his gun at Gist, and fired.

"Are you shot?" cried Washington, rushing forward to his companion. "Are you shot?"

"No; but it is what I feared from the time we employed the rascal to guide us," answered Gist. The shot missed.

The Indian ran behind a large white oak, Washington and Gist following after him. Approaching the tree, they discovered that he was reloading his gun.


"You rascal!" exclaimed Gist, raising his musket to give the Indian its contents.

"No; that won't do," said Washington to Gist, pushing aside his gun. "We are worse off when you have killed him than we are now." He thought the tribe would avenge his death by killing them.

"The villain deserves a bullet through his heart," shouted Gist, "and I can put one through with good relish."

"Very true," answered Washington with the most astonishing coolness, "but it is not good policy for us to take his life now."

Washington took away the Indian's gun and compelled him to walk ahead. At the first run of water he ordered him to build a camp fire, as if he designed to encamp there for the night. When this was done Gist said to him:

"I suppose you were lost, and fired your gun."

"No, I was not lost," answered the savage, "I know where my cabin is, and it is not far away."

"Well, then," continued Gist, "do you go home, and here is a cake of bread for you, and you must provide meat for us in the morning."

The Indian was glad enough to get away without being pierced by a bullet, and he promised them excellent fare the next morning. It was nine o'clock at night when he left them, taking with him his gun, that Washington returned to him. Gist followed him for quite a distance, to be sure that he was not deceiving them, and then hurried back.


"Now, since you would not let me shoot the villain," he said to Washington, "we must shoulder our packs and hurry away, and walk all night, or we shall never see Williamsburg."

"You are right, Gist, and we will be off at once; and the fellow may keep his meat till we come this way again," replied Washington, with as much composure as if their lives had not been in jeopardy. By the light of the camp fire their compass showed them which way to go.

The excitement of this perilous episode seemed to rest Washington's weary limbs, so that they traveled rapidly through the whole night, finding themselves at the head of Piney Creek in the morning. Washington's journal has the following entry for that day:

"The next day we continued traveling until quite dark, and got to the river, two miles above Shannopin's. We expected to have found the river frozen, but it was not, only about fifty yards from each shore. The ice, I suppose, had broken up above, for it was driving in vast quantities."

"What next?" said Gist, with an air which indicated that he recalled his warning words to Washington about the perils of such a journey. "If the Indian's bullet had taken effect we should have been saved some trouble here."

"A formidable difficulty, to be sure," answered Washington; "but a good share of wit and perseverance may overcome it. No way of getting over this stream, I think, except on a raft."


"A raft!" exclaimed Gist. "A raft would be swamped in a giffy by that ice. Besides, what have we to build a raft with? A hatchet alone will not do it."

"A hatchet is much better than nothing," responded Washington. "We will try what a hatchet can do towards it. If we fail, we will fail in trying."

"Try it is, then," said Gist, rather admiring Washington's hopefulness and pluck than otherwise. "I am at your service, and if anybody can cross the river, I think a man of your grit can."

So they set to work to construct a raft, with no implement but a solitary hatchet, consuming a whole day in the work. When the awkward affair was fairly launched, they went on board of it, and pushed off for the opposite shore. About mid-way of the river, the floating ice came down with such violence as to threaten the destruction of the raft.

"We can never reach the shore on this craft," said Gist, in a tone indicating entire resignation to a watery grave.

"Can't we stop the raft and let the ice go by?" answered Washington, at the same time putting down the setting pole to accomplish this purpose. But the rapidity of the torrent dashed the raft with such violence against the pole that it threw Washington into ten feet of water.

"Hold on!" shouted Gist under the greatest alarm; "grasp this oar." And he reached out his oar to Washington, who had already caught hold of one of the raft-logs. A severe but short struggle, and he was on the raft again.


"A cold bath," remarked Washington, as he stood upon the raft again, shaking the water from his drenched clothes.

"It is a miracle that you were not drowned," replied Gist; "and you would have been if you were as nervous as some people."

"I am cool enough now," said Washington, his wet clothes already beginning to stiffen on his back in the wintry blast. "I shall not despair so long as I remember that one faithful saint is praying for me," referring to the promise of his mother.

They made a desperate effort to keep their craft right side up in the floating ice, but failed in the attempt.

"No use!" exclaimed Gist. "We must quit the concern and make for that island."

"Yes; and that immediately, if we would save ourselves," responded Washington, as he leaped into the water, followed by Gist. The island was but a few rods distant, and they reached it just at night, with the gloomy prospect of remaining shelterless upon it until the next morning.

"Not much better off here than we were in the water," suggested Gist. "My fingers are frozen, and some of my toes; and what is to prevent the freezing of the remainder of my body?"

"If we perish, we will perish trying to keep alive," remarked Washington. "We have plenty of room to exercise ourselves here, and keep up a circulation, with no fear of being shot at by savages. It will not do to sleep in this predicament."


"It will be our last sleep if we do," answered Gist. "The cold is rapidly increasing, and I hardly see how any amount of exercise can save us."

"Be a little more hopeful, Gist. I have faith to believe that we shall be saved yet," said Washington. "This increasing cold is providential, I think. It will freeze the river before morning, and thus provide a way for us to escape from this island."

"Well, that is a hopeful view, I confess," replied Gist; "but how the biting cold can freeze the river without freezing us is incomprehensible to me."

They made a remarkable night of it, and saved their lives by muscular exertion. They dashed about in the cold, gathering hope and courage from hour to hour as the water of the stream congealed harder and harder. In the morning they crossed the river on the ice, truly thankful to a kind Providence, which had delivered them from what, to human view, was inevitable death.

Once upon the other side of the river, they made their way as speedily as possible to the house of Mr. Frazier, a few miles distant, where they regaled themselves with fire and food to their hearts' content, recounting their adventures, and causing all to wonder that they were still among the living.

Here Washington met twenty warriors, who were going to the southward to war, but had returned from Great Kenhawa, because there they found a family of seven people killed and scalped.


"Why did you return?" inquired Washington of a chief.

"For fear the inhabitants might take us to be the murderers," the chief replied.

"Did the condition of the bodies show that the massacre was recent?" Washington inquired further.

"Not very recent; the bodies were scattered about, and several of them were much eaten by hogs," was the chief's answer.

"Have you any suspicions as to who the murderers were?" urged Washington.

"Certain marks which they left behind showed that the butchery was done by Indians of the Ottawa nation," was the information given in answer to his question.

Mr. Frazier informed Washington that an Indian queen, living three miles distant, had taken offense because he did not call upon her on his way to the fort. As he was obliged to wait two days for horses, he paid her a visit and made her a present of a watch-coat.

Washington's final entry in his journal is:

"Tuesday, the 1st of January, 1774, we left Mr. Frazier's house, and arrived at Mr. Gist's, at Monongahela, the 2d, where I bought a horse and saddle. The 6th, we met seventeen horses loaded with materials and stores for a fort at the fork of the Ohio, and the day after, some families going out to settle. Thi[196]s day we arrived at Will's Creek, after as fatiguing a journey as it is possible to conceive, rendered so by excessive bad weather. From the first day of December to the fifteenth, there was but one day on which it did not rain or snow incessantly; and throughout the whole journey we met with nothing but one continued series of cold, wet weather, which occasioned very uncomfortable lodgings, especially after we had quitted our tent, which was some screen from the inclemency of it."

Washington arrived at Williamsburg on the sixteenth day of January, and immediately reported to Governor Dinwiddie, delivering the reply of the French commander; the belts of wampum from the Indian tribes, as pledges of friendship; together with his journal, as his report of the expedition.

Weems says, "The governor was much pleased with the Indian belts, more with the Frenchman's letter, but most of all with Washington's journal."

"I shall have your journal published immediately," said the governor to Washington.

"I beg your honor not to give it to the public in print," replied Washington; "it is a very defective document, written, as it was, in the wilderness, under the most unfavorable circumstances. It was intended for no eyes but yours."

"My dear man," said the hearty Scotchman, "you are altogether too modest in this matter. I am sure that the document is worthy of the greatest publicity."

"But you will grant me the privilege of amending it," pleaded [197]Washington, almost frightened at the idea of his journal appearing in print.

"Indeed, major, there is no time for that now," answered the governor. "The Assembly will rise to-morrow or next day, and I want each member to have several copies to carry home with him. You need not give yourself any uneasiness, man, for your journal is worthy of a perusal by the King of Great Britain, and I intend to present him with a copy."

The journal went to press at once, and was in the hands of members of the Assembly before the adjournment. It was received with the greatest enthusiasm and praise everywhere, and was published in all the papers of the Colony. Copies were sent to England, and there it appeared in the journals of the day.


Washington's report concerning the designs of the French created intense excitement in Virginia and the neighboring Colonies. Governor Dinwiddie could see no other way to maintain the dignity of his government than by a resort to arms. He so reported to his Majesty the King of England. The excitement there became even greater than it was in America. Everybody wanted to fight to vindicate the nation's honor. The popular conversation was a declaration of war against the French.


The British Government was not long in framing instructions to the American Colonies, and orders were issued that they should unite in one confederacy and drive the French out of the land. The king directed Governor Dinwiddie to raise a force in Virginia, and the order was received with great enthusiasm. Washington was appointed to push recruiting, with headquarters at Alexandria. New York and South Carolina pledged two independent companies.

Washington anticipated a rush of volunteers when the governor sent out his call for troops, but the small pay offered did not induce the stalwart yeomanry, and other reliable classes, to relinquish their honorable occupations at home for the hunger and hardships of war. The result was, that a very unreliable class offered to enlist. One writer says:

"There gathered about him a rabble of ragamuffins and worthless fellows, who had spent their lives in tramping up and down the country, without settled homes or occupations. Some were without hats and shoes; some had coats and no shirts, some had shirts and no coats; and all were without arms, or any keen desire to use them if they had them. All this disgusted and disheartened our youthful colonel not a little, for he was young, and had yet to learn that it is of just such stuff that the beginnings of armies are always made."

Washington wrote to Governor Dinwiddie in a very desponding tone, complaining of the want of patriotism in the Colony. Immediately the governor came to his relief by issuing a proclamation, in which he said:

"Two hundred thousand acres of the very best land on th[199]e head-water of the Ohio will be appropriated, and divided among those who enlist and serve during the war."

The effect of this order was good, and soon one company was raised and sent forward, under Captain Trent, to occupy the junction of the Monongahela and Alleghany Rivers, and there erect a fort, before the French could possess it. This was the spot which Washington recommended to Governor Dinwiddie as an admirable location for a fort.

When the work of recruiting was completed, the governor offered the command of the whole force to Washington, although Colonel Fry was entitled to it by right of seniority. Such was Washington's popularity, that Governor Dinwiddie knew the people would hail the appointment with unfeigned satisfaction. But Washington, with his usual modest estimate of himself, said to a friend:

"I cannot take the responsibility; I am not equal to it."

"That is not for you to say," urged his friend. "The people believe that you are just the man for the place, and will not be satisfied unless you take command."

"The command belongs to Colonel Fry, whose competency no one disputes, and whose age is certainly a qualification in his favor," answered Washington.

"All that may be true; it probably is true; nevertheless, the governor understands what the popular demand is, and has acted accordingly," his friend retorted. "My advice is, accept the position, and bury your modesty."


"It is not modesty," protested Washington. "I have too much love for my country to do anything to prejudice her interests."

On declining to assume the chief command, Washington wrote to Colonel Corbin, who desired that he should accept, as follows:

"The command of the whole forces is what I neither look for, expect, or desire, for I must be impartial enough to confess it is a charge too great for my youth and inexperience to be intrusted with. Knowing this, I have too sincere a love for my country to undertake that which may tend to the prejudice of it. But, if I could entertain hopes that you thought me worthy of the post of lieutenant-colonel, and would favor me so far as to mention it at the appointment of officers, I could not but entertain a true sense of the kindness. I flatter myself that, under a skilful commander or man of sense (which I most sincerely wish to serve under), with my own application and diligent study of my duty, I shall be able to conduct my steps without censure, and, in time, render myself worthy of the promotion that I shall be favored with now."

Colonel Joshua Fry was appointed to the chief command, and Washington was made lieutenant-colonel.

While Washington was attending to his duties at Alexandria, an incident occurred which illustrates the strength of his moral character. There was an election for members of the House of Burgesses, and the two opposing candidates in that district were Colonel George Fairfax and a Mr. Elzey.


"I am well acquainted with Colonel Fairfax," remarked Washington to the bystanders, "and I know him to be abundantly qualified for the position. He is able, and a true patriot."

"As much can be said of Mr. Elzey, and perhaps more," replied a man by the name of Payne, a great friend and admirer of the latter gentleman. "His experience qualifies him for the office beyond most men in the district."

Here Washington remarked, somewhat sarcastically, that character, after all, in such times, was the highest qualification, a remark that was readily construed into an insinuation that Payne's candidate did not possess it, whereupon Payne struck him so violently with a stick as to knock him down.

A scene followed. Washington's friends sprang forward to his rescue, but he was on his feet before their help reached him. They turned upon his assailant.

"What do you mean, you dastard?" exclaimed one.

"Take him into custody"! shouted another.

"Knock him down!" bawled a third.

"No, gentlemen," interrupted Washington, just in season to prevent a collision, "do not touch the man. Perhaps he was not altogether to blame. My remark was hasty. Let us have no more trouble."

The officers and others present were nearly as much surprised by [202]Washington's intercession for his assailant as they were by the latter's heartless blow, and they stood speechless. The young commander remained until the excitement ceased, when he repaired to his lodgings at the hotel, where he immediately wrote a note to Mr. Payne, asking him to call in the morning.

Anticipating a challenge to a duel, Payne armed himself with a pistol in the morning before making the call. To his surprise, Washington met him at the door with an apology.

"I ask your pardon for an offence given in an unguarded moment," he said, grasping his hand.

Payne was thoroughly embarrassed by this reception, and he was so filled with admiration by the magnanimity of the act, that he became one of Washington's warmest friends. Their mutual friendship lasted as long as they lived.

Mr. McGuire very properly says of this deed:

"How noble and becoming was this conduct! It was especially admirable in a youthful soldier, whose very profession exposed him to peculiar temptations on such an occasion. How many would have been driven, by the fear of reproach and dread of unfavorable insinuations, to incur the hazards of a duel, thus offering up at the shrine of honor the costly sacrifice of human life. It was not possible that a man like Washington, so endowed with moral courage and regard for virtue, should be moved by the fear of man to such a course. He dreaded not the charge of cowardice from the mouths of fools. In his own bosom he had its ample refutation. He was conscious of a fortitude which n[203]o dangers could shake. To display it in murdering a fellow-citizen was not his ambition. He had before him the tented field and the enemies of his country, and he was pledged for the hazards of a mortal conflict in her defence. Here he was willing to show his courage and lay down his life. He would not do so to gratify revenge, or win applause from the vain."

When Washington had recruited two more companies of fifty men each, he applied to Governor Dinwiddie for permission to advance for the better protection of the frontier. Having procured the order from the governor, he marched out of camp, equipped not only with arms, but also with implements of labor for constructing a road over which supplies and cannon might be readily transported. This was a great undertaking, since there were giant trees to be felled, hills to be levelled, marshes to be filled, rocks to be blasted, and bridges to be built. So great a work was this, that the little army was fourteen days going thirteen miles. They reached Will's Creek on the 24th of April, 1754, where Washington unexpectedly met Captain Trent.

"What are you doing here, captain," said Washington, somewhat surprised at seeing him.

"Recruiting my command," answered Trent. "I need more men to construct the fort."

"That is certain, and we need more men everywhere," responded Washington. "It is fearfully hard work to prosecute such a campaign with so few men. But how are you succeeding?"

"As well as could be expected under the circumstances. I am thankful for [204]the smallest number of recruits, for forty men to construct and garrison a fort at the forks of the Ohio is altogether too small a force."

While discussing this matter, Ensign Ward entered the camp, and surprised both Washington and Trent by saying:

"The garrison at the fort have surrendered to the French."

Captain Trent left Ensign Ward in command of his force at the forks, while he was recruiting at Will's Creek.

"How can that be?" exclaimed Trent, surprised beyond measure.

"On the 17th," the ensign explained, "we were surprised by the appearance of the French fleet in the river, under the command of Captain Contrecoeur, consisting of three hundred canoes and sixty batteaux, carrying a thousand men and eighteen cannon."

"To take possession of the forks and erect a fort for their own defence," interjected Washington, who had called the attention of Governor Dinwiddie to the probability of such an event.

"Yes, that was what they came for," replied Ward; "and they were glad to see one so far under way, no doubt, as it would lighten their labors."

"Did they make an attack?" inquired Washington.

"Captain Contrecoeur planted his cannon to sweep the fort, drew up his men in readiness for an attack, and then sent a demand to the English to surrender in one hour, or he would open fire."


"Under the circumstances you could not object with much resolution," remarked Washington.

"I didn't, but surrendered without parleying," replied Ward; "and we were allowed to march out bearing our arms and all our tools."

"This is a declaration of war," remarked Washington, "and we must govern ourselves accordingly."

He called his officers together for consultation, and said to them:

"The French have now invaded the frontier of the Colony, and as I construe my instructions from the government, it is my duty to march forward to meet the invaders."

"Without reinforcements from Colonel Fry?" anxiously inquired one of his officers.

"No. We can march to the mouth of Red Stone Creek, which is thirty-seven miles above the fort captured by the French, there throw up defences, and await the arrival of reinforcements."

A messenger was posted away to Colonel Fry, while the army took up the line of march to Red Stone Creek, where it hastily intrenched and awaited reinforcements.

About the 1st of May, Captain Stevens arrived with his company of fifty men. Colonel Fry remained at his post to complete arrangements and bring up supplies; but he suddenly died, so that Washington was forced to act as commander-in-chief.


With his little army increased to one hundred and fifty men, Washington proceeded to Great Meadows, making a road suitable for transporting supplies as he advanced, and reaching his destination on the 27th of May. They had but just encamped when Mr. Gist arrived.

"I have seen the trail of a party within five miles of you, which I am sure were French," he said to Washington, under evident excitement.

"I am not surprised at that announcement," replied Washington. "War is inevitable, and we must accept the issue. We must look after these French."

"Or they will look after us," retorted Gist. "The French mean business; there can be no doubt of that. Unless we mean business it is all up with us."

"I will pursue them at once," continued Washington; and he took forty men, leaving the remainder of his force to work on the intrenchments. Half-king, with a few Indians, joined him, and when it was supposed they were in the vicinity of the French party, two Indian scouts were sent forward, who discovered their camp two miles distant. It was in the dawn of the morning, and they had traveled all night through the driving storm and darkness, and, of course, were poorly prepared for battle. But Washington determined upon an attack immediately. Arranging his own men on the right and the Indians on the left, he advanced rapidly upon the enemy. The latter were taken unawares, but they sprang to their arms and opened fire on catching sight of the English. A brief, sharp, bloody encounter ensued, when the French surrendered, having lost ten men killed and one wounded. Twenty-one were taken prisoners. Washington's loss was one man killed and two or three wounded.


Among the slain Frenchmen was their popular commander, Captain Jumonville. The twenty-one prisoners were sent, under a strong guard, to Governor Dinwiddie, with a plea from Washington that they should be treated with humanity. He withstood Tanacharisson and his redskins, who wanted to slay every one of the prisoners, and rebuked their revengeful spirit.

"The French army at the forks will avenge the death of Jumonville," said Washington to Gist, "and the whole force will march against us."

"They will if they are like the rest of mankind," responded Gist, "and that, too, without waiting for ceremony."

"We will be prepared for them," added Washington. "It will never do for an army to be caught napping, especially a little one like mine."

"But you will fight against great odds," suggested Gist; "the French have every advantage in men and means."

"True, very true, but we must make our fortifications strong at the Meadows, and do the best we can."

This little conquering squad of English rejoined the army at the Meadows, and proceeded at once to make their fort impregnable. Here Washington soon received additional reinforcements, swelling his army to four hundred soldiers. Among them was a company of one hundred men from North Carolina, under Captain Mackey. The latter officer made some trouble for Washington by claiming superiority of rank, because his commission was from the King of England, while Washington's was from a [208]provincial governor only. However, this difficulty was soon adjusted through Washington's tact and magnanimity.

The army was short of provisions at this time, supplies not having been sent forward as Washington expected. His men were very much tried, and many of them were exasperated. Adding hunger and needless suffering to their pittance of pay was quite enough to demoralize the rank and file. Washington could not blame them much, in the circumstances, although the discontent added to his trials. He wrote to Governor Dinwiddie in his troubles, as follows:

"Giving up my commission is quite contrary to my intentions. Nay, I ask it as a greater favor than any amongst the many I have received from your honor, to confirm it to me. But let me serve voluntarily; then I will, with the greatest pleasure in life, devote my services to the expedition, without any other reward than the satisfaction of serving my country; but to be slaving dangerously for the shadow of pay, through woods, rocks, and mountains, I would rather prefer the great toil of a day laborer, and dig for a maintenance, provided I were reduced to the necessity, than serve upon such ignoble terms.... I hope what I have said will not be taken amiss, for I really believe, were it as much in your power as it is in your inclination, we should be treated as gentlemen and officers, and not have annexed to the most trifling pay that ever was given to English officers the glorious allowance of soldier's diet, a pound of pork, with bread in proportion, per day. Be the consequence what it will, I am determined not to leave the regiment, but to be among the last men to quit the Ohio."

Washington preferred to serve his country without pay rather than have [209]the reputation of being paid when receiving but a pittance, and half starved into the bargain. His appeal was a sincere and earnest one for his soldiers.

As on former occasions, Washington was his own chaplain. Twice a day his little army were called to prayers in the fort, which he himself conducted. On the Sabbath only works of necessity were performed, and he conducted religious services. Sometimes his brief remarks, called forth by the condition of his army, deeply impressed his listeners, who knew that they were honest words from a true heart.

He was exceedingly annoyed by the profanity and wickedness of his men, and at one time he issued the following order:

"Colonel Washington has observed that the men of his regiment are very profane and reprobate. He takes this opportunity to inform them of his great displeasure at such practices, and assures them that, if they do not leave them off, they shall be severely punished. The officers are desired, if they hear any men swear or make use of an oath or execration, to order the offender twenty-five lashes immediately, without a court-martial. For a second offence he shall be more severely punished."

As the French army did not make its appearance after waiting many days for it, Washington resolved to march upon Fort Duquesne, as the French had named their stronghold at the forks in honor of the governor of Canada.

Leaving Captain Mackey with his company to garrison the fort, Washington [210]advanced towards the forks. But he had marched only thirteen miles when he met several friendly Indians, one of whom said:

"The French are on the march against you."

"How far away?" inquired Washington.

"A few miles only."

"In large force?"

"Eight hundred Frenchmen and four hundred Indians."

"I can hardly credit that they are coming with so large a force," replied Washington. "That is a formidable army for my small army to fight."

The Indians convinced him that it was even so, whereupon he called a council of war, when it was unanimously decided to retreat to their base of supplies. After two days of wearisome marching, on the retreat, they reached the fort at the Great Meadows. Here many of the men and horses were so exhausted and weak for the want of food that Washington decided to make a stand there. He was forced to stop there, and so he named the stockade "Fort Necessity."

The able-bodied soldiers were set to work digging a trench around the fortifications, and felling large trees to obstruct the march of the enemy upon their works. But their labors were far from being completed when, on the morning of July 3, a wounded sentinel came rushing into camp and shouting, "The enemy is upon us! The French army is here!"


The drum beat the soldiers into line quickly, outside of their fortifications, though subsequently they were withdrawn into the fort. About eleven o'clock the enemy opened a heavy fire upon the fort, which was returned with spirit.

"Waste no powder; fire at discretion; and where-ever you discover a head, pick it off," were Washington's instructions to his men.

The battle raged all day until eight o'clock in the evening, when the French commander, Monsieur De Villiers, sent a flag of truce. Supposing it was a scheme to get a spy within the fort to discover its strength, Washington declined to receive it. But De Villiers, evidently thinking the English force was much larger than it actually was, persisted in his application for a parley. He asked that an English officer be sent to him, promising him absolute safety.

Washington sent Van Braam, who returned in a short time with articles of capitulation for him to sign, and he was accompanied by De Villiers himself.

Washington declined to sign them until they were amended to suit his wishes. About midnight the articles were signed, and the fort surrendered.

On the morning of July 4, 1754, the little army marched out of the fort, with banners flying and the band playing, carrying their arms with them, so that there was no degradation in the surrender. As the French had killed all of Washington's horses and cattle, he could not take away his cannon and heavy baggage; so it was stipulated that these should be protected until he could send for them.


In this his first battle, Washington lost fifty-eight men, while the French lost two hundred in killed and wounded.

Washington marched his little army back to Williamsburg, where he was received with distinguished honors. The governor tendered him hearty thanks in behalf of the government; and the House of Burgesses, which soon assembled, unanimously adopted a vote of thanks "for their bravery, and the gallant manner in which they had conducted themselves in the defence of the country." A resolution was passed, also, granting an appropriation of four hundred pistoles to be distributed among the soldiers who had aided in the expedition. In addition, the assembly made an appropriation of ten thousand dollars, in October following, for the public service; and soon afterwards the English government forwarded fifty thousand dollars for the same purpose.

The defeat of Washington did not appear to modify the public confidence in him. The people knew full well the great odds against which he contended, and judged him accordingly. That he should defend Fort Necessity so long and so successfully, when fatigue and hunger were creating discontent, was proof to them of skill and courage; and that he should secure terms of capitulation so honorable, appeared to them a reason of praise rather than censure.

French historians have censured Washington for the death of Jumonville, denominating the attack upon his small party "assassination." They claim that he was sent upon an embassy, of which there is not a shadow of proof. On the other hand, there is positive evidence that Jumonville was conducting a reconnoitering party, to ascertain the position and strength of the English.


Washington's report to Governor Dinwiddie, and the latter's letter to Lord Albemarle, establish the facts in the case beyond contradiction. For this reason we introduce them here:

"I set out with forty men before ten, and it was from that time till near sunrise before we reached the Indians' camp, having marched in small paths, through a heavy rain, and a night as dark as it is possible to conceive. We were frequently tumbling over one another, and often so lost that fifteen or twenty minutes' search would not find the path again.

"When we came to the half-king, I counselled with him, and got his assent to go hand in hand and strike the French. Accordingly he, Monacawacha, and a few other Indians, set out with us; and when we came to the place where the troops were, the half-king sent two Indians to follow the tracks and discover their lodgment, which they did, at a very obscure place, surrounded with rocks. I, thereupon, in conjunction with the half-king and Monacawacha, formed a disposition to attack them on all sides, which we accordingly did; and, after an engagement of fifteen minutes, we killed ten, wounded one, and took twenty-one prisoners. Amongst those killed was Monsieur Jumonville, the commander. The principal officers taken are Monsieur Drouillon, and Monsieur La Force, of whom your Honor has often heard me speak as a bold, enterprising man, and a person of great subtlety and cunning. These officers pretend that they were coming on an embassy; but the absurdity of this pretext is too glaring, as you will see by the instructions and summons enclosed. Their instructions were to reconnoiter the country, roads, creeks, and the like, as far as the Potomac, which the[214]y were about to do. These enterprising men were purposely chosen out to procure intelligence, which they were to send back by some brisk despatches, with the mention of the day that they were to serve the summons, which could be with no other view than to get reinforcements to fall upon us immediately after."

Governor Dinwiddie wrote to Lord Albemarle as follows:

"The prisoners said they were come as an embassy from the fort: but your lordship knows that ambassadors do not come with such an armed force without a trumpet or any other sign of friendship; nor can it be thought that they were on an embassy, by their staying so long reconnoitering our small camp, but more probably that they expected a reinforcement to cut us off."


With the quite liberal provisions now made for the public service, Governor Dinwiddie resolved to increase the army to ten companies of one hundred men each, and capture Fort Duquesne at once. He sent for Washington, now twenty-two years of age, and laid his plan before him.

"It will prove disastrous," was Washington's prompt answer, to the surprise of the governor.

"You surprise me!" rejoined the governor. "With a thousand men I thought the fort could easily be captured."


"But you do not take into account the time required to drill the army and march to the fort," answered Washington. "Winter will be upon us before we are ready to besiege the fort."

"I hardly see the need of consuming as much time as you indicate in preparation," suggested the governor.

"You would understand it if you had had the experience with a half-drilled army through one campaign, as I have had," replied Washington.

"But your force was a very small one," suggested Governor Dinwiddie. "With two or three times as many men you will be able to reduce the fort without the drill."

"My experience rather teaches me that the larger the army the more necessary the drill, in order to handle it efficiently," Washington replied.

"Then you are opposed to such a campaign now, under any circumstances, if I understand you," continued the governor.

"My judgment decides against the practicability of such an expedition; nevertheless, I am at your service. My duty is to obey." This was Washington's sincere reply.

Governor Dinwiddie was a conceited man, jealous of his own authority, and he did not like to be opposed by such a stripling as Colonel Washington, much less was he willing to abandon a project of his own by [216]the advice of an inferior officer. For this reason he adhered to his original plan, and instructed Washington to fill up his regiment to a thousand as soon as possible. With what feelings Washington undertook this task may be learned from his letter to William Fairfax, Esq., president of Governor Dinwiddie's council:

"I have orders to complete my regiment, and not a sixpence is sent for that purpose. Can it be imagined that subjects fit for this service, who have been so much impressed with and alarmed at the want of provisions, which was a main objection to enlisting before, will more readily engage now, without money, than they did before with it?... To show you the state of the regiment, I have sent you a report, by which you will perceive what great deficiencies there are of men, arms, tents, kettles, screws (which was a fatal want before), bayonets, cartouch-boxes, and everything else. Again, were our men ever so willing to go, for want of the proper necessaries of life they are now unable to do it. The chief part are almost naked, and scarcely a man has either shoes, stockings, or a hat. These things the merchants will not credit them for. The country has made no provision. They have no money themselves, and it cannot be expected that the officers will engage for them again, personally having suffered greatly on this head already.... There is not a man that has a blanket to secure him from cold or wet."

That the conceited provincial governor was bent upon having his own way is evident from the fact that he wrote privately to England, and secured the passage of an act that made provincial officers of the army inferior to the English officers in rank. Under this act, Washington's rank would be that of captain instead of colonel.


"Of course I shall not serve longer in the army under such an arrangement," said Washington to Mr. Fairfax. "Not that I covet higher rank, but self-respect requires me to throw up my commission."

"For one, I can never blame you," replied Fairfax. "The animus of the thing is suited to discourage every soldier in the colony. If England expects the Colonies to fight her battles under such an arrangement, she will be greatly disappointed."

"So I think," answered Washington; "and if I do not mistake the temper of the colonists, they will never submit to such injustice; never. It is but the most reasonable thing that provincial troops should be placed upon the same footing as the king's. They should be as liberally provided for, and enjoy the opportunities of promotion equally with the others."

"Unless they do, England cannot long claim colonies in North America," added Fairfax.

As indicated by the foregoing, Washington returned his commission, and other officers did the same. The measure which Governor Dinwiddie adopted to bring Washington to terms, and put the army more directly under his own control, suddenly upset his authority. Instead of marching upon Fort Duquesne at once, a speedy abandonment of the enterprise was forced upon him. He could snub Washington, but he could not compel him to recruit and lead the army. Washington retired to private life at Mount Vernon.

Governor Dinwiddie was never in such trouble before. Fort Duquesne haunted him in his sleep. The stripling of a colonel had outwitted his [218]Excellency. What could he do?

The British Government advised a confederacy of the Colonies, believing that "in union there is strength." Accordingly, a delegate convention was called at Albany, "to form a league with the Six Nations of Indians, and to concert among themselves a plan of united operations for defence against the common enemy." The New England States, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland accepted the proposition, and sent delegates to the convention. A league was formed with the Six Nations, but the convention could not agree upon a plan of common defence acceptable both to the colonies and the British Government. Benjamin Franklin was a member of the convention from Pennsylvania, holding the position of postmaster-general under the king at the time and he presented a plan that was accepted by all the delegates except those from Connecticut. For the want of complete union, the project was abandoned, and the British ministry took the conduct of the war into their own hands. They promptly adopted measures to force the French Government to retire from their advanced position in America.

In January, 1755, General Braddock was sent from Ireland, with two regiments of infantry, well equipped and well drilled. Their arrival aroused the depressed Colonists to enthusiasm. They forgot the troubles that had divided them, and united to expel the French from the country.

General Braddock reported to Governor Dinwiddie at Williamsburg, and laid before him his plans of operation. As the fame of the youthful Washington had reached him in the old country, his thoughts were very naturally directed to him in this interview.

"Where is Colonel Washington," he inquired. "I long to see him."


"He is retired from the service, sir," replied the governor.

"Retired?" exclaimed General Braddock. "Colonel Washington retired? Pray, sir, what is the reason?"

"He was displeased with the king's order reducing the rank of provincial officers," answered the governor. And he proceeded to explain the matter in full, without exposing his own agency in the matter. General Braddock heard him through, when he retorted with indignation:

"Colonel Washington is right. It is a shame for the government to issue such an order, and as unjust as it is shameful."

"But your disciplined troops are far more valuable than an undisciplined force like ours," suggested the governor.

"Granted," answered General Braddock; "and so much more credit to Colonel Washington, who handled undisciplined troops so well. He must be a brave and efficient officer."

"He is," responded Governor Dinwiddie; "no one disputes that."

"Then he ought to have the chance for promotion that the king's officers do," interrupted the general. "I don't like such partiality. Colonel Washington must be brought back into service."

"I should be glad to see him in active service again, and nothing would please our people more," rejoined the governor. "He is an idol with the Colonists, he has proved himself so loyal, brave, and efficient."


"Well, where is he? I must see him," continued General Braddock.

He was told that he was on his farm at Mount Vernon.

"Then he must leave his farm for the service of his country, as Cincinnatus did," interjected Braddock.

General Braddock addressed a letter to him, soliciting an interview, and appealing to him strongly to give his able services to the "common cause." He urged him to join his army, and offered him an honorable position upon his staff.

Washington was too much of a patriot to allow his personal grievance to interfere with the defence of his country in these circumstances, and he waited upon General Braddock at Alexandria, and accepted the position. However, he wrote to a friend that it was not altogether patriotism that determined his decision.

"I must be ingenuous enough to confess," he wrote, "that I am not a little biassed by selfish considerations. To explain: I wish earnestly to attain some knowledge in the military profession, and, believing a more favorable opportunity cannot offer than to serve under an officer of General Braddock's abilities and experience, it does, you may reasonably suppose, contribute not a little to influence my choice."

As soon as possible after the arrival of General Braddock, Governor Dinwiddie called a conference of the governors of five Colonies to discuss war measures. The result of the conference was the plan of undertaking three expeditions. "The first of these was to be conducted by Braddock, with the British troops, against Fort Duquesne; the second, [221]under the command of Governor Shirley of Maryland, now honored with the commission of general from the king, was intended for the reduction of the French fort of Niagara, and was composed of American regulars and Indians; the third was an expedition against Crown Point, to be undertaken by a regiment of militia."

As soon as Washington's mother learned that her son had decided to join Braddock's army, she hastened to Mount Vernon in great distress.

"I hoped you had quit war forever, George," she said, "and would be content to look after your farm and mother, without exposing yourself to death any more."

"A man must be loyal to his country, mother," replied Washington. "He is not much of a man if he is not willing to risk his life for his country."

"I will not dispute you, George, on that point," continued his mother; "but somehow I had got it into my mind that you were through with war, and I was glad of it. I suppose that a mother's love had more to do with it than patriotism."

"But you believe in patriotism?" added Washington.

"Of course I do."

"But do not want your son to be patriotic," he quickly added, knowing exactly what course to pursue in order to secure his mother's approval.

"Not so, George," Mrs. Washington answered. "I honor patriotism, and if it is necessary for you to join the army again, I am willing. As I [222]said, a mother's love got the better of me for the moment."

"It does seem necessary for me to go, mother, in the circumstances," added Washington. "As I am situated the refusal might be easily construed into a lack of patriotism. This is a critical time for the Colonies, when loyalty and patriotism alone can sustain their cause."

"You are right, my son, and I will heartily withdraw my objections," responded Mrs. Washington, touched by her son's devotion to his country. "My prayers are all that I can give to my country, and these it shall have. That God may protect you through all the dangers and hardships of war, and return you in safety, will be my constant prayer. With His blessing you can be a useful man in war, as in peace, and without it you can expect nothing."

Thus, as before, Washington entered upon the campaign with his mother's pious benediction. On the 9th of June he left Alexandria with Braddock's army, recruited to nearly three thousand men. Virginia raised three companies of her best marksmen, who joined the British troops. When the march began, and Washington took in the grand military display, every soldier well clad and equipped, instead of being ragged and poorly armed, he said, "This is the grandest spectacle I ever beheld."

As another has said, "Not the shabby, discouraging, inglorious war of men without hats and shoes, kettles and bayonets, but the military array of a young officer's brightest dreams: a host in gallant uniforms, with nodding plumes, the clang of inspiring music, and the dazzling splendor of banners flaunting in the sun. Victory was a thing of course. The want of proper equipment had occasioned defeat and mortification. The presence of everything that a soldier's heart could wish or his fancy [223]devise was sure to bring triumph that would extinguish all memory of former failure."

General Braddock was an experienced officer, but he knew nothing of Indian warfare. Evidently he regarded the French as his chief antagonists, and supposed that an easy victory could be won. His conversation with Benjamin Franklin, who visited him, as postmaster-general, to make arrangements for the transmission of the mails to and from the army, reveals much of the general's character.

"Not a long campaign, I think," he remarked to Franklin.

"Nevertheless a hard one," answered Franklin. "In such a country as this, campaigning is attended with serious difficulties."

"But difficulties lessen before experienced officers and soldiers," responded Braddock.

"Can you give me any idea of your intended progress?" inquired Franklin, for the purpose of drawing him out, and learning what were his real ideas of the country.

"After taking Fort Duquesne," Braddock replied, "I am to proceed to Niagara; and, having taken that, to Frontenac, if the season will allow, and I suppose it will, for Duquesne can hardly detain me above three or four days; and then I can see nothing to obstruct my march to Niagara."

"I supposed that it would require a longer time than that to reduce Fort Duquesne," said Washington. "The French have had ample time to strengthen their fortification."


"That may be, but I do not apprehend much difficulty in accomplishing my object there," was the general's confident reply.

"To be sure, sir," continued Franklin, "if you arrive well before Duquesne with these fine troops, so well provided with artillery, the fort, though completely fortified and assisted with a very strong garrison, can probably make but a short resistance. The only danger I apprehend of obstruction to your march is from the ambuscades of the Indians, who, by constant practice, are dexterous in laying and executing them; and your slender line of troops, nearly four miles long, which your army must make, may expose it to be attacked by surprise on its flanks, and to be cut like thread into several pieces, which, from their distance, cannot come up in time to support one another."

General Braddock smiled at what he thought was Franklin's ignorance, and answered in a self-assuring manner:

"These savages may, indeed, be a formidable enemy to raw American militia; but upon the king's regular and disciplined troops, sir, it is impossible they should make an impression."

In describing this interview afterwards, Franklin said sarcastically:

"I was conscious of an impropriety in my disputing with a military man in matters of his profession and said no more."

Washington was so ill after the army reached the great crossings of the Youghiogeny, that Dr. Craik advised him to stop until he rallied. He had been feverish for several days, and for that reason had ridden in a covered wagon.


"Death is almost inevitable if you continue," said Dr. Craik. "Stop here until the violence of your fever abates, and then you can come up with Dunbar's rear division."

"I think you are unnecessarily alarmed, doctor," answered Washington. "In a few days I shall be all right. It will be a great trial to me to stop here and not advance with the army."

"It may prove a greater trial for you to advance," suggested Dr. Craik. "Rest and quiet may restore you speedily now, but it may be too late three days hence."

General Braddock also appealed to him.

"You are altogether too unwell to proceed, Colonel Washington," he said, "and you must not attempt it."

"But I would not miss being with you at the attack upon Fort Duquesne for five hundred pounds," replied Washington.

"And you will not if you stop here until you are better; but if you go on, you may be dead and buried by that time, or too sick to participate in the battle," was the general's wise answer.

"I will stop here if you will promise that I shall rejoin the army before an engagement," added Washington.

"I pledge you my word of honor, in the most solemn manner, that it shall be effected."


Washington remained, soon rallied, and rejoined the army when it was encamped about two miles from the Monongahela River.

Washington had feared disaster, as Franklin did, from Braddock's ignorance of Indian warfare.

"Let me reconnoitre in advance with the three companies of Virginia marksmen," he proposed. "We understand the tactics of the savages, and can fight them in their own way."

"Allow me to suggest, young man, that the savages will be of little account before my regulars," was Braddock's haughty answer, evidently thinking that his youthful aid-de-camp was too officious.

"The best disciplined troops are not competent to fight Indians in the Indian way if they have had no experience with savages," persisted Washington. "The order of battle and the usual rules and tactics of war are of no account here."

"That may be your opinion and experience," replied the general, "but you have not had the king's efficient troops here before. That makes all the difference in the world."

"Nevertheless," added Washington, "defeat awaits us unless we are prepared to meet Indians with their own tactics."

Before the army took up its line of march from Alexandria, Washington advised General Braddock not to wait for any wagons to be provided. Braddock had been disappointed in getting a supply of these; and when Dr. Franklin visited him, he bargained with him to purchase in [227]Pennsylvania, and forward at once, a sufficient number of them, with four horses to each wagon.

"Army wagons will be a burden to us instead of a help, much of the way," said Washington. "The road is narrow and rough, and pack-horses will prove better than wagons."

But these suggestions were unheeded by the haughty British officer, who insisted that his army should be provided for and move in the wilds of America as in the cultivated countries of Europe. He had too much official pride to allow himself to be instructed by a stripling in Virginia.

General Braddock possessed a high temper, and he was excessively fond of intoxicating drinks. With too much temper and too much drink to carry, he often became an overbearing officer. Washington wrote as follows to Mr. Fairfax at one time:

"The general, by frequent breaches of contract, has lost all patience, and for want of that temperance and moderation which should be used by a man of sense upon these occasions, will, I fear, represent us in a light we little deserve; for, instead of blaming individuals, as he ought, he charges all his disappointments to public supineness, and looks upon the country, I believe, as void of honor and honesty. We have frequent disputes on this head, which are maintained with warmth on both sides, especially on his, who is incapable of arguing with or giving up any point he asserts, let it be ever so incompatible with reason or common sense."

It should be recorded in his favor that General Braddock was a strict [228]disciplinarian in the army. Each regiment was provided with a chaplain, and every soldier was required to attend prayers each day, and on Sunday be present at divine services. He refused to tolerate some practices among his men which are common in armies. The most vicious class of soldiers indulged in a wholesome fear of him.

After Braddock's army crossed the Monongahela, and were within ten miles of Duquesne, and no sign nor sound of an enemy was seen or heard, Washington grew anxious, and he said:

"General, this silence so near the fort in our country is rather ominous than otherwise. A scouting party ought to go forward. We are liable to find ourselves in an ambuscade of Indians at any moment."

"Indians have a poor show in the presence of this force," replied the general. "The king's troops will show you how to handle savages."

"I will scour the woods in advance with the Virginia provincials if you say the word, general," Washington continued, apprehending that they were in the very jaws of danger. He knew very well that French and Indian scouts must be near them watching their movements. But Braddock declined his offer and they marched on in European style, "three hundred men under Colonel Gage forming the advanced party, followed by a party of two hundred; and last of all, the general, with the main body, Colonel Duncan leading the rear with supplies."

We should have stated that, in the outset, Indians flocked to the English standard; among them White Thunder Scarooyadi, successor to half-king, who had died, and others, associated with Washington in his [229]former campaign. Silver Heels, so called from his nimbleness, a renowned warrior, came and tendered his services.

Through Washington's entreaty, General Braddock received the red warriors kindly, with military honors. He made them presents in the name of the king, and they, in turned, danced and sung war songs. But such was Braddock's demeanor towards them subsequently, that they became displeased; and, when their dissatisfaction was intensified by the improper conduct of some young English officers towards Bright Lightning, the beautiful daughter of White Thunder, they all deserted the army in disgust. When within ten miles of Duquesne, on the ninth day of July, Braddock had no Indians in his command.

Scarooyadi reported to the governor and Council of Pennsylvania, after Braddock's defeat: "It was owing to the pride and arrogance of that great general who came from England. He is now dead, but he was a bad man when he was alive. He looked upon us as dogs, and would never hear anything that was said to him. We often endeavored to advise him, and tell him of the danger he was in with his soldiers; but he never appeared pleased with us, and that was the reason a great many of our warriors left him." He proposed to take up the hatchet again with the English, and said:

"Let us unite our strength; you are numerous, and all the English governors along your seashore can raise men enough; but don't let those that come from over the great seas be concerned any more. They are unfit to fight in the woods. Let us go ourselves, we that came out of this ground."

Three or four o'clock on that ninth day of July, as the advance of the army was ascending a rise of ground, a volley of musketry suddenly [230]arrested their progress. From a ravine, concealed by dense foliage, a deadly fire was poured into their faces. Before they had recovered from their surprise, another volley was fired into them from the other side. These volleys mowed them down like grass. Yet the enemy could not be seen. The English directed their fire towards the smoke of battle, though but for a moment. For the torrent of lead, shot into their faces, forced the advance back upon the main column, and confusion followed. General Braddock bravely sought to rally them, to move forward in orderly columns, as on European battlefields, but his efforts were abortive; for six hundred Indians, painted and armed for battle and thirsting for blood, burst from their ambuscade, followed by three hundred French and Canadians, sure of victory; and the work of carnage grew terrific.

Early in the conflict two of Braddock's aides-de-camp, Captains Orme and Morris, fell, and Washington alone remained to carry the general's orders here and there. Without the least regard to personal safety, he galloped over the field, his tall, noble form presenting a rare target for the Indian sharpshooters, who took special pains to bring him down. Two horses were shot under him, and four balls pierced his clothes; still he was conspicuous everywhere that he could be of service, and for three hours distributed his commander's orders, with the deadly missiles flying around him like hailstones. Dr. Craik said:

"I expected to see him fall every moment. He dashed over the field, reckless of death, when the bullets whistled about him on every side. Why he was not killed I cannot divine, unless a watchful Providence was preserving him for more important work."

One of the principal Indian warriors fired at him again and again; and, [231]at his bidding, a score of young braves did the same, without so much as grazing his skin, keeping up their fire until convinced that the Great Spirit had given to him a charmed life that he might not be shot in battle.

Mr. Paulding gives the description of an eye-witness thus:

"I saw him take hold of a brass field-piece as if it had been a stick. He looked like a fury; he tore the sheet-lead from the touch-hole, he placed one hand on the muzzle, the other on the breach; he pulled with this and he pushed with that, and wheeled it round as if it had been nothing. It tore the ground like a plough. The powder monkey rushed up with the fire, and then the cannon began to bark, I tell you. They fought and they fought, and the Indians yelled when the rest of the brass cannon made the bark of the trees fly, and the Indians came down. That place they call Rock Hill, and there they left five hundred men dead on the ground."

A bullet struck Washington's gold watch-seal, and knocked it from his chain. Eighty years after the battle that seal was found by a visitor to the battle ground, and it is now preserved among the relics of the Washington family.

The English officers behaved heroically, and won Washington's admiration by their bravery; but the English soldiers acted like cowards. Panic-stricken in the first place, they did not recover from their consternation during the engagement. The unearthly yells of the savages, which they had never heard before, seemed to terrify them even more than the whistling of bullets. They lost self-control, disregarded the orders of their officers, and ran hither and thither like frightened sheep. [232]Sixty-three of the eighty-five English officers were killed or wounded, a fact that shows how bravely they fought.

General Braddock proved himself a brave and faithful commander. He did all that mortal man could do to save his army, exposing himself to death from first to last. After three hours of hard fighting, during which time four horses were shot under him, he fell, pierced by several bullets, and was borne from the field.

Now the whole command depended upon Washington, who had taken special pains to have the Virginia marksmen fight the Indians after their own fashion. Their effective tactics had saved the English army from complete destruction. And now Washington rallied them afresh, to cover the army in its retreat, bearing their wounded commander as they went.

Mr. Meek's description of the final contest is so particular and graphic that we quote it here:

"Happily, on the left, where lay the heaviest fire, Washington's rangers were posted, but not exposed like the British. For, on hearing the savage yells aforesaid, in a moment they flew each to his tree, like the Indians; and, like them, each leveled his rifle, and with as deadly aim. This, through a kind Providence, saved Braddock's army; for, exulting in their confusion, the savages, grimly painted, and yelling like furies, leaped from their coverts, eager to glut their hellish rage with a total massacre of the British. But, faithful to their friends, Washington's rangers stepped forth with joy to met the assailants. Then rose a scene sufficient to fill the stoutest heart with horror. Here falls the brave Virginia blue, unde[233]r the stroke of his nimbler foe; and there, man on man, the Indians perish beneath the furious storm of lead. But who can tell the joy of Washington, when he saw this handful of his despised countrymen thus gallantly defending their British friends, and, by dint of mortal steel, driving back their blood-thirsty assailants? Happy check! for by this time, covered with wounds, Braddock had fallen; his aids and officers, to a man, killed or wounded; and his troops, in hopeless, helpless despair, flying backwards and forwards from the fire of the Indians, like flocks of crowded sheep from the presence of their butchers. Washington alone remained unhurt. Two horses had been killed under him. Showers of bullets had lifted his locks or pierced his regimentals. But still protected by heaven, still supported by a strength not his own, he had continued to fly from quarter to quarter, where his presence was most needed, sometimes animating his rangers, sometimes striving, but in vain, to rally the regulars. 'Twas his lot to be close to the brave but imprudent Braddock when he fell, and assisted to place him in a tumbril, or little cart. As he was laid down, pale and near spent with loss of blood, he faintly said to Washington:

"Well, colonel, what's to be done now?"

"Retreat, retreat by all means," answered Washington. "The regulars won't fight and the rangers are nearly all killed."

"Poor fellows! poor fellows!" weakly replied the dying general. "Do as you will, colonel, the command is on you."[234]

"More than half of the army are dead and wounded," continued Washington, "and retreat is all that is left us. The surviving rangers can cover the retreat of the remnant."

"Pardon me, colonel for rejecting your counsel, which I now deeply regret," the general frankly confessed. "I see it now, but it is all over."

The command of the army reverted to Colonel Dunbar after the fall of Braddock; but he was several miles away, on the other side of the Monongahela, when the disaster occurred, in charge of the rear division and supplies. Hence the authority of Washington for the time being.

When the retreating army recrossed the river and reached Colonel Dunbar, and he learned the extent of the disaster, the wildest confusion followed. Colonel Dunbar proved himself unfit for his position, by losing his self-control, ordering the heavy baggage and supplies to be burned, and hastening the retreat to Fort Necessity.

General Braddock died soon after the shattered army reached Fort Necessity. Tradition says that he died in the arms of Washington, to whom he gave his favorite servant, Bishop, expressing regrets again and again that he had not treated his youthful aid-de-camp with more consideration.

Washington conducted the funeral services over the remains of the British general, and made it a very impressive ceremony. His voice trembled with emotion when he read the Episcopal service, and tears [235]stood in his eyes as he thought of the victory that might have been, instead of the terrible defeat that was.

Subsequent information received by Washington proved that the French at Fort Duquesne celebrated their victory by a drunken carousal, and that they treated their prisoners with great barbarity. Colonel Smith, who was a prisoner there, and an eye-witness, subsequently bore the following testimony, after speaking of the victorious savages returning with the spoils of war, such as grenadiers' caps, canteens, muskets, swords, bayonets, rich uniforms, and dripping scalps:

"Those that were coming in and those who had arrived kept up a constant firing of small arms, and also of the great guns in the fort, which was accompanied by the most hideous shouts and yells from all quarters, so that it appeared to me as if the infernal regions had broken loose. About sundown I beheld a small party coming in with about a dozen of prisoners, stripped naked, with their hands tied behind their backs. Their faces and parts of their bodies were blackened. These prisoners they burned to death on the banks of the Alleghany River, opposite to the fort. I stood on the walls of the fort until I beheld them begin to burn one of these men. They tied him to a stake and kept touching him with fire-brands, red-hot irons, etc., and he screamed in the most doleful manner. The Indians, in the mean time, were yelling like infernal spirits. As this scene was too shocking for me, I returned to my lodgings both sorry and sore.

"From the best information I could receive, there were only seven Indians and four French killed in this battle. Five hundred British lay dead in the field, besides what were killed in the river, after their retreat. The morning after the battl[236]e I saw Braddock's artillery brought into the fort. The same day, also, I saw several Indians in the dress of British officers, with the sashes, half-moons, laced hats, etc., which the British wore."

Washington said: "The French are responsible for these atrocious cruelties, for the Indians are their allies, instigated to war by their influence, fighting under their banner, and paid by their money. The burning of our men under the very walls of their fort must have been done by their approval."

He embraced the first opportunity after the battle, to write to his mother, that she might know of his safety, and be relieved of any anxiety which exaggerated reports might create. His letter to her was dated Fort Cumberland, July 18, 1755, and the first paragraph was:

"As I doubt not but you have heard of our defeat, and, perhaps, had it represented in a worse light, if possible, than it deserves, I have taken this opportunity to give you some account of the engagement as it happened within ten miles of the French fort, on Wednesday, the 9th inst."

He wrote to his brother:

"The Virginia troops showed a good deal of bravery, and were nearly all killed. The dastardly behavior of those they called regulars exposed all others that were ordered to do their duty to almost certain death. At last, in despite of all the efforts of the officers to the contrary, they ran, as sheep pursued by dogs, and it was impossible to rally them.


"By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation, for I had four bullets through my coat and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me."


Washington's advice to Colonel Dunbar was: "Reorganize and march upon Duquesne. That fort can be captured by strategy."

"I can do nothing with an army so demoralized as this," replied Dunbar. "We may as well consider this campaign ended. Our force is now too much reduced to capture Duquesne."

"Nevertheless I believe that this defeat may be turned into victory," added Washington. "At any rate I am not in favor of utterly abandoning the attempt."

"Better that than to make a second attempt and fail," retorted Dunbar. "I do not propose to remain and see the remnant of my army annihilated."

"What, then, will you do?"


"Strike my tents and repair to Philadelphia and go into winter quarters," answered Dunbar.

"Go into winter quarters before dog-days have fairly set in!" exclaimed Washington, surprised by the suggestion. "What will the people of our country say to that?"

"They may say what they please," said Dunbar. "The risk is too great for me to assume under the circumstances, and I decide to go into camp in Philadelphia."

"Then there is no alternative for me but to return to Williamsburg," added Washington, perfectly satisfied that Dunbar was too much of a coward to be intrusted with the command of an army.

Colonel Dunbar acted accordingly; struck his tents, and, under the impulse of his excessive fear, hurried his troops off to Philadelphia. Washington regretfully and sorrowfully marched the Virginia force back to Williamsburg. News of the disaster had reached that place before his arrival, causing great excitement and sorrow; but when the people looked upon his shattered and diminished force, their hearts were touched, and their fears greatly augmented. Nor did they attach blame to Washington; on the other hand, the sentiment was universal that, but for his bravery and skill, Braddock's army would have been well nigh annihilated.

Governor Dinwiddie immediately called together the Assembly to consider what could be done in the crisis. In the meantime he conferred with Washington respecting the way of retrieving their loss.

"Raise a force of two or three thousand men," said Washington, "and [239]reduce Fort Duquesne as soon as possible. Under the flush of this victory the French will urge the Indians on to devastation and carnage throughout the frontier. A speedy, bold, successful attack upon the fort will prevent such a calamity."

"I had not thought of that," answered the governor, "but it is a sensible view of the matter to take. We must protect the country against Indian depredations if it be possible."

"Or we are in a far worse condition than ever," interjected Washington. "You know what the Indians are under the excitement of victory; savages in the worst sense of the word."

"And there will be no mercy shown to the defenceless settlements and the scattered families of the frontier," added the governor. "All the horrors of Indian massacre and outrage will be witnessed in our country."

Governor Dinwiddie canvassed the whole subject with Washington, so that he was prepared to make definite suggestions to the Legislature when that body convened. He advised them to raise two thousand troops and make a liberal appropriation of money, "to carry the war into Africa," on the ground that otherwise the enemy would be emboldened to prosecute an aggressive war.

When the Legislature assembled, leading members opposed aggressive warfare, and advised only defensive operations on the frontier. So they voted to raise a thousand troops only, and appropriated money accordingly, a very great disappointment to Washington and those who took the same view of the situation that he did. At the same time Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the Virginia forces, with [240]the unusual power of appointing his own field officers and aide-de-camp and secretary. This was on the 14th of August, 1755.

On a former page we said that expeditions against the French and Indians at Niagara and Crown Point were planned at the same time the expedition against Duquesne was determined upon. Both of these expeditions failed. They started from Albany, N.Y., the first under the command of Governor Shirley of Massachusetts; the other under William Johnson, an Irishman, who was on intimate terms of friendship with the most powerful chiefs of the Six Nations. When these two expeditions were fairly under way, news of the disastrous defeat of Braddock reached them, and completely demoralized the troops. The Indians, who were always inclined to join the winning side, deserted the ranks, and many white soldiers followed their cowardly example. The expedition under Johnson accomplished something in another direction; but both expeditions failed, so far as the proposed reduction of Niagara and Crown Point was concerned.

"A fatal mistake!" remarked Washington to Mr. Fairfax. "Such timid measures are just suited to encourage the enemy."

"It cannot be otherwise," answered Fairfax. "To provide just enough men to make a good target, and just enough money to pay for shooting them down, is very poor policy, in my judgment."

"When it comes to actual service," continued Washington, "there will not be over seven hundred reliable soldiers for fighting. To defend three hundred and sixty miles of frontier with this small force is next to impossible. To mass them in one locality will leave other localities exposed; and to divide them up into squads, and scatter them over the whole distance, is arranging them for the enemy to readily cut them off [241]one after another."

"A bloody work, that infuriated savages will enjoy," remarked Mr. Fairfax. "The more I think of it, the more I shrink from the contemplation of the horrible butchery that will probably follow this serious mistake of the government."

"Yet I accept my appointment, lest a refusal be misconstrued," continued Washington. "But I have served so long with inadequate support by the government, followed by disasters, that I had hoped for the most liberal provisions now."

"And they should have been freely granted," added Mr. Fairfax.

"No one can be more sensible of my failures than I am," Washington remarked with his usual modesty. "If an old proverb will apply to my case, I shall certainly close with a share of success, for surely no man ever made a worse beginning than I have. Still, I want a fair chance to redeem my fortunes if I can."

In September Washington established his headquarters at Winchester, beyond the Blue Ridge, in the beautiful valley of the Shenandoah. It was a frontier town, one hundred and forty miles northwest of Richmond. He found the people of the town under great alarm in consequence of frequent reports of depredations by French and Indians. The town was crowded with men, women, and children, who had fled from their homes in the wilderness to this place for protection, on hearing that the Indians were on the war-path. Many of these reports were exaggerated, and others had no foundation in truth. For instance, one morning the report came that a party of Indians was within twelve miles of the town, pillaging, burning and murdering in the most terrible manner. The report filled the [242]inhabitants with consternation, and women and children were half crazed with fear.

Washington ordered a company of soldiers to follow him in driving back the foe, but not one of them would respond. Their fears were greater than their patriotism. Suspecting that the report might be exaggerated, he sent out scouts to learn something more definite. The scouts returned in one hour with the startling intelligence, "The Indians are less than four miles away, destroying everything in their track."

On being questioned by Washington as to the facts in the case, the scouts said, "We heard their yells and guns distinctly, and there is not a shadow of doubt but that they will fall upon Winchester within an hour."

Washington appealed to the soldiers again, and supplemented his appeal by authority and threats.

About forty volunteered to accompany him to meet the savage foe. Moving with extreme caution and circumspection, they reached the spot where the scouts heard the yells of Indian warriors. Sure enough, they heard a kind of yell and the discharge of a musket, but nothing that indicated the presence of savages to Washington's experienced ear. Pressing on a few rods farther, a turn of the road disclosed to Washington two drunken soldiers, cursing, yelling and carousing, and occasionally firing off a pistol into the air. He made prisoners of the two worthless fellows, who had proved the scouts to be cowards, conveyed them to Winchester, and locked them up.

This incident shows that there was little discipline among the soldiers, [243]and little self-possession among the people. In his discouragement, Washington wrote to Governor Dinwiddie:

"In all things I meet with the greatest opposition. No orders are obeyed but such as a party of soldiers, or my own drawn sword, enforces. Without this, not a single horse, for the most earnest occasion, can be had, to such a pitch has the insolence of these people arrived by having every point hitherto submitted to them. However, I have given up none where his majesty's service requires the contrary, and when my proceedings are justified by my instructions; nor will I, unless they execute what they threaten, that is, 'blow out our brains.'... I would again hint the necessity of putting the militia under a better regulation, had I not mentioned it twice before and a third time may seem impertinent. But I must once more beg leave to declare that, unless the Assembly will pass an act to enforce military law in all its parts, I must decline the honor that has been so generously intended me. I see the growing insolence of the soldiers, and the indolence and inactivity of the officers, who are all sensible how limited their punishments are, compared with what they ought to be. In fine, I can plainly see that under the present establishment we shall become a nuisance, an unsupportable charge to our country, and never answer any one expectation of the Assembly.... Why should it be expected from us, who are all young and inexperienced, to govern and keep up a proper spirit of discipline without laws, when the best and most experienced can scarcely do it with them? If we consult our interest, I am sure it loudly calls for them. I can confidently assert that recruiting, clothing, arming, maintaining, and subsisting soldiers who have since deserted have cost the country an immense sum, which might have been[244] prevented were we under restraints that would terrify the soldiers from such practices."

Another trial which Washington experienced was the refusal of Captain Dagworthy, in command at Fort Cumberland, to obey his orders. Dagworthy had received his commission from the king, and he claimed that hence he was Washington's superior, who received his commission from a provincial governor. This affair created much excitement in Washington's command, and his officers drew up a memorial, praying him—

"To appeal to General Shirley, who was commander-in-chief of all the British forces in North America, and whose headquarters are in Boston. His decision will settle the question forever."

Washington applied to Governor Dinwiddie for permission to proceed to Boston at once for this purpose, and obtained it. Notwithstanding the deep snow and wintry weather, he started upon this mission on the 4th of February, 1756, accompanied by Captains Mercer and Stewart. They travelled on horseback the whole distance, and "took with them their negro servants, who, riding behind with their master's saddle-bags and portmanteaus, and dressed in fine livery, with gold lace on their fur hats, and blue cloaks, gave quite an air of style and consequence to the little cavalcade."

In New York City Washington was entertained by Beverly Robinson, a distinguished citizen, at whose house he met a very accomplished young lady, Miss Phillips, sister of Mrs. Robinson. Her many attractions captivated the young hero more than any lady friend had done since his experience with the "Lowland Beauty." However, he did not capitulate, but bore his colors forward to Boston, whither his fame had gone before [245]him.

He received a warm reception in Boston, such as was never accorded to so youthful an officer. His gallant conduct in saving Braddock's army from destruction, together with other deeds of heroism, known throughout the Colonies, had made him famous; and now, "his tall and commanding form, the manly beauty of his face, his dignified bearing, his rich and handsome dress, and the unequalled skill with which he managed his large and noble horse," awakened admiration in the minds of all beholders.

Having procured an order from General Shirley, under which a commission from a provincial governor was as good as one from the king, Washington started upon his return journey, after remaining ten days in Boston. He stopped two weeks in New York City with Beverly Robinson, whose wife's charming sister greatly pleased him. In her he beheld all that was beautiful in person, graceful in accomplishments, and excellent in character. There is no doubt that the young hero, who had withstood the assaults of French and Indians combined, had resolved to surrender to the bewitching charms of this damsel. But he found that a true and worthy friend of his had already captured the prize, and was exulting in the possession of her heart. Disappointed, but not cast down, he bade the charmer adieu, and hurried away.

He reached Williamsburg on the twenty-third day of March, after an absence of seven weeks. He had but just arrived when a messenger came dashing into town, the bearer of appalling news.

"The Indians are approaching Winchester in force, burning and plundering as they go!" he shouted.

"Have you any better evidence of their depredations than rumor?" [246]inquired Washington, recalling some experiences of the past, "or do you announce what you know to be a fact?"

"The evidence of their approach and plunder is positive," replied the messenger; "and the inhabitants are flocking into town from their pillaged and burning homes."

Washington was satisfied that the startling tidings was no false alarm, and, putting spurs to his charger, he dashed away to Winchester. His arrival reassured the terrified inhabitants and they bravely rallied to defend their homes. Everything was put upon a war basis as soon as possible. A few days passed, and Washington wrote to the governor as follows:

"However absurd it may appear, it is, nevertheless, certain that five hundred Indians have it more in their power to annoy the inhabitants than ten times their number of regulars. Besides the advantageous way they have of fighting in the woods, their cunning and craft, their activity and patient sufferings are not to be equalled. They prowl about like wolves, and, like them, do their mischief by stealth. They depend upon their dexterity in hunting, and upon the cattle of the inhabitants, for provisions."

In an interview with Mr. Fairfax, Washington remarked:

"You will recall my prophecy that our frontier will be ravaged until Fort Duquesne is captured and the French are driven from the Ohio."


"I remember your prophecy distinctly," replied Mr. Fairfax; "and now we reap as we sowed. We sowed to the wind, and now we are reaping the whirlwind."

"Even now it is not too late to recover what has been lost, were the government so disposed," continued Washington. "I do not despair only so far as those in authority fail to support military operations. The enemy has appealed to arms, and there is no alternative but to accept the challenge."

The following extract from one of his letters to General Loudoun, who superseded General Shirley as commander-in-chief of the British forces in America, discloses the unhappy condition of affairs:

"I am too little acquainted, sir, with pathetic language, to attempt a description of the people's distresses; but I have a generous soul, sensible of wrongs and swelling for redress. But what can I do? I see their situation, know their danger, and participate in their sufferings, without having it in my power to give them further relief than uncertain promises. In short, I see inevitable destruction in so clear a light, that unless vigorous measures are taken by the Assembly, and speedy assistance sent from below, the poor inhabitants that are now in forts must unavoidably fall, while the remainder are flying before a barbarous foe. In fine, the melancholy situation of the people, the little prospect of assistance, the gross and scandalous abuse cast upon the officers in general, which reflects upon me in particular, for suffering misconduct of such extraordinary kinds, and the distant prospect, if any, of gaining honor and reputation in the service, cause me to lament the hour that gave me a commission: and would induce me, at an[248]y other time than this of imminent danger, to resign, without one hesitating moment, a command from which I never expect to reap either honor or benefit; but, on the contrary, have almost an absolute certainty of incurring displeasure below, while the murder of helpless families may be laid to my account here. The supplicating tears of the women and moving petitions of the men melt me into such deadly sorrow that I solemnly declare, if I know my own mind, I could offer myself a willing sacrifice to the butchering enemy, provided that would contribute to the people's ease."

Two days afterwards, he addressed another letter to the governor, in which he said:

"Not an hour, nay, scarcely a minute, passes, that does not produce fresh alarms and melancholy accounts. Nor is it possible to give the people the necessary assistance for their defence, on account of the small number of men we have, or that are likely to be here for some time. The inhabitants are removing daily, and in a short time will leave this country as desolate as Hampshire, where scarce a family lives."

"Three families were murdered night before last, at the distance of less than twelve miles from this place; and every day we have accounts of such cruelties and barbarities as are shocking to human nature. It is not possible to conceive the situation and danger of this miserable country. Such numbers of French and Indians are all round that no road is safe; and here we know not the hour we may be attacked."


For nearly two years Washington vainly attempted the defence of the frontier, the French and Indians all the while plundering and murdering the inhabitants in one locality while he was defending another, multiplying scenes of barbarity as only savages could. The following description of a single scene is by Washington himself:

"One day as we drew near, through the woods, to a dwelling, suddenly we heard the discharge of a gun. Whereupon, quickening our pace, and creeping up through the thick bushes to a fence, we saw what we had dreaded—a party of Indians, loaded with plunder, coming out of a house, which, by the smoke, appeared as if it were just set on fire. In a moment we gave the savages a shower of rifle balls, which killed every man of them but one, who attempted to run off, but in vain; for some of our swift-footed hunters gave chase, and soon overtook and demolished him with their tomahawks. On rushing into the house and putting out the fire, we saw a mournful sight indeed: a young woman lying on the bed floated with blood, her forehead cleft with a hatchet, and on her breast two little children, apparently twins, and about nine months old, bathing her bosom with blood flowing from their deeply gashed heads! I had often beheld the mangled remains of my murdered countrymen, but never before felt what I did on this occasion. To see these poor innocents, these little, unoffending angels, just entered upon life, and, instead of fondest sympathy and tenderness, meeting their bloody deaths, and from hands of brothers, too, filled my soul with the deepest horror of sin!

"On tracing back into the corn-field the steps of the barbarians, we found a little boy, and beyond him his father, both weltering in blood. It appeared, from the print of hi[250]s little feet in the furrows, that the child had been following his father's plough; and, seeing him shot down, had set off with all his might to get to the house, to his mother, but was overtaken and destroyed.

"And, indeed, so great was the dread of the French and Indians throughout the settlements, that it was distressing to call even on those families who yet survived, but, from sickness or other causes, had not been able to get away. The poor creatures would run to meet us, like persons half distracted with joy, and then, with looks blank with terror, would tell that such or such a neighbor's family, perhaps the very night before, was murdered, and that they heard their cries and saw the flames that devoured their house. And also, that they themselves, after saying their prayers at night, never lay down to sleep without first taking leave of one another, as if they never expected to meet again in this world. But when we came to take our leave of these wretched families, my God, what were our feelings! To see the deep, silent grief of the men, and the looks of the poor women and children, as, falling upon their knees, with piercing screams, and eyes wild with terror, they seized our hands or hung to our clothes, entreating us for God's and mercy's sake not to leave them to be murdered! These things so filled my heart with grief, that I solemnly declare to God, if I know myself, I would gladly offer my own life a sacrifice to the butchering enemy, if I could but thereby insure the safety of these my poor, distressed countrymen."

Washington continued to say to the government that this terrible state of affairs would not cease until Fort Duquesne was captured; and he [251]entreated, again and again, to be provided with an army large enough to reduce the fort. But all in vain.

Finally, near the close of the year 1757, his labors and anxieties threw him into a violent fever, and he was conveyed to Mount Vernon, where he lay for four months, sometimes so sick that his life was despaired of, all the time bearing upon his soul the responsibilities of his public position. His faithful servant Bishop, bequeathed to him by General Braddock, attended him night and day with singular devotion. It was not until April that he was able to resume his command.

When Washington returned to his headquarters at Winchester, he was unexpectedly cheered by some favorable changes. General Loudoun had been superceded by General Abercrombie, and Governor Dinwiddie had been recalled to England.


"The people are disheartened," said Washington to Mr. Fairfax, "and we need successes to inspire hope within them. But this can never be until the king's officers understand how to fight Indians."

"That is true, no doubt, but I have more hope that General Abercrombie will do something effective for this part of the country," answered Fairfax. "General Loudoun had more than his hands full to look after the [252]troops at the north, so that he could give little attention to our claims."

"I wish that it might be so," responded Washington; "but the only effective blow that can be struck for us is the reduction of Fort Duquesne. Until that is done, the enemy has a base of supplies, and a refuge from which to sally forth at any time, for pillage and butchery on the frontier. The possession of Canada is important, and victories there now would greatly encourage our people. An army of from five to ten thousand men would drive the French and Indians before it, and put the English into speedy possession of the Ohio."

"And that will encourage the people, and put hope and life into them," added Fairfax.

"And patriotism, too, I should hope," said Washington. "Our people lack patriotism, and there is no disguising it."

One of Washington's trials, at that time, was the unwillingness of the people to incur the expense and dangers of war. They appeared to think that sufferings and death alone awaited them in warfare with Indians. Such harrowing tales of cruelties by the savages had come to them, that they shrank from conflict with the barbarians.

Mrs. Washington was very much opposed to her son going to the Ohio again. Rumors of another expedition against Duquesne reached her, whereupon she wrote to him, entreating him not to undertake the hazardous enterprise. He replied to her as follows:

Dear Mother,—If it is my power to avoid going to the Ohio [253]again, I shall; but if the command is pressed upon me by the general voice of the country, and offered upon such terms as cannot be objected against, it would reflect dishonor upon me to refuse it; and that, I am sure, must and ought to give you greater uneasiness than my going in an honorable command. Upon no other terms will I accept it. At present I have no proposals made to me, nor have I any advice of such an intention, except from private hands.

General Abercrombie surprised Washington, however, by issuing an order to organize a strong expedition against Duquesne. The newly appointed commander-in-chief appeared to comprehend the situation as his predecessors had not, and Washington was overjoyed. The cloud that had enveloped his spirit was lifted, and he saw a brighter future.

The northern troops, also, were meeting with successes, and news of their victories gladdened all hearts. The expeditions against Louisburg, Ticonderoga, and Crown Point proved fortunate, and the people became more and more hopeful as their advances were known.

"There is hope now for our cause," remarked Washington to Mr. Fairfax at Williamsburg, very much elated by the prospect before him. "I can see the end now. It looks as if General Abercrombie was the right man in the right place."

"I hope so," responded Mr. Fairfax. "He appears to think that two or three times as many troops as you have had before will be none too many to march against Duquesne."

"There is my hope," continued Washington. "An army large enough to strike an effective blow will save both money and men for the [254]government. Half enough is cruelly exposing all to defeat and butchery."

"So it has proved," remarked Fairfax.

"To the discouragement and fear of the people throughout this part of the country," replied Washington. "But if troops are furnished according to the order now, I have no fear about the result. Three thousand from Pennsylvania, twelve hundred from North Carolina, two thousand from Virginia, with seven hundred Indians, and as many regulars, will make an army of about eight thousand."

"How large a force do you imagine the French have at Duquesne?" inquired Fairfax.

"Not over one-third of our number. Perhaps not more than one-quarter as many. If the Assembly will be as liberal in supplying the Virginia soldiers with clothing, rations, arms, blankets, etc., as General Abercrombie has been, it will be a wise economy, as well as commendable patriotism."

Washington was in Williamsburg at the time, for the purpose of laying before a committee of the Legislature the wants of his little army, and securing liberal supplies. On his way thither an incident occurred which should be narrated here.

Passing through the county of New Kent, on his way to Williamsburg, Washington approached the baronial estate of Mr. Chamberlain. The proprietor was near his front gate, and, recognizing Washington, who was accompanied by his servant, saluted him, saying:


"Colonel Washington, let it never be said that you passed the house of your father's friend without dismounting. I must insist upon the honor of detaining you as my guest."

"I thank you with all my heart, my dear sir, but my business at Williamsburg demands haste, and you must excuse me to-day," was Washington's reply.

"Business relating to the expedition against Fort Duquesne, I suppose?"

"Yes; and its importance admits of no delay."

"Nevertheless, I must press my invitation," continued Mr. Chamberlain, "for surely you must dine somewhere, and it will detain you no longer here than elsewhere. We will not detain you a moment after you have swallowed your dinner. I am too much interested in the capture of Duquesne to delay your business."

"Your patriotism is equal to your hospitality," replied Washington, "and I am quite disposed to accept both, in the circumstances."

"In that case you will accept my hearty thanks, also," added Mr. Chamberlain.

"Do I understand that I may be excused immediately after dinner?" said Washington, still hesitating.

"Immediately, with all the promptness of military discipline."

"Then, sir, I accept your generous hospitality;" and Washington alighted from his horse immediately, saying to his servant Bishop, "Be sure and [256]have the horses at the door by the time we rise from the dinner-table."

"Is this the charger and this the servant presented to you by General Braddock?" Mr. Chamberlain inquired as they turned towards the house.

"The same, sir."

"You honor me, Colonel Washington, by accepting my invitation to dinner," continued Mr. Chamberlain. "I rejoice all the more in the opportunity to have you for my guest because I have other friends to dine with me to-day, who will regard it a real pleasure to meet our young and gallant soldier."

Washington bowed his acknowledgments for the honest compliment, and they passed into the mansion, where he was soon introduced to the other guests, and brought face to face with them in the dining-hall.

Among the guests was Mrs. Martha Custis, a young widow, accomplished, beautiful, and wealthy, about six months younger than Washington. Her charming appearance captivated the young hero's heart. He beheld in her such a partner as would make his future life happy.

After dinner, instead of discoursing upon the importance of his mission to Williamsburg, and rushing for his horse, he entered into familiar conversation with Mrs. Custis. The longer he talked the more he admired the intelligence, grace, and character of the lady.

His faithful servant Bishop was at the gate, with the horses, when the party rose from dinner. He waited and waited, wondering and wondering what could delay his master, who was always punctual as the clock. The [257]favorite charger champed his bits and pawed the ground, as if he, too, wondered what had become of his rider's usual promptness. So the moments, and even hours, sped, trying the patience of Bishop and the horses.

All this while Washington was engaged in pleasant conversation with Mrs. Custis and other guests, the former being the attraction which caused him to modify his views respecting his business at Williamsburg. She might not have been a "widow bewitched," but she certainly cast a spell over the hero of Monongahela, which he did not throw off; and, after a time of unusual social delight, he accepted an invitation to stop over night. Bishop was ordered to put the horses into the stable, and thoughts of war appear to have been banished.

The next morning he hurried away to Williamsburg, and travelled at such a breakneck speed that Bishop was more puzzled than ever over the conduct of his master. He had sacrificed his well-earned reputation for promptitude on the day before, and now he seemed to be no longer merciful to his beast; quite enough to perplex the servant beyond measure. However, Washington expedited his business at Williamsburg, secured the supplies for his army that he asked, and returned by the way of the "White House" on the Pamunkey River, where Mrs. Custis lived in English style. How long he stopped there we have no means of learning; but long enough to consummate a treaty of love, in which it was stipulated that she should become his bride when the expedition against Duquesne had been brought to a close.

In this affair Washington proved himself to be a true son of Adam and brother in our common humanity. He who is too great to be insensible to womanly charms and virtues, and too cold in his nature to love, cannot have an important mission to perform in this world.


On his return to Winchester he found that the English officers were discussing the practicability of making a new road to Duquesne, or, at least, from Raystown to Duquesne by the way of Laurel Hill.

"Better march thither by the old road which General Braddock constructed," suggested Washington.

"His road did not lead him to victory," answered one of the officers naively.

"Neither will a new road, if that is all you have to depend upon," remarked Washington. "The difficulties of making a new road through this rough country are so great that such an enterprise should not be undertaken unless it is absolutely necessary."

"We came to this country for such business whenever it is necessary," said General Forbes, commander of the expedition.

"Exactly; but a new road is not necessary to make this expedition against Duquesne a success."

"How is that?"

"Because it will consume so much time that winter will be upon us before we can reach the fort. An early movement on the old roads is far more desirable, in my judgment, than a late one on a new road."

"But you do not consider that the king's regulars are experienced in such work, and they will not require the time which the provincial [259]troops do to complete such a piece of work."

"Perhaps so," replied Washington in a doubtful tone, as if he recalled the old boast of the English generals about the might of their regulars. He had seen enough of these boasted heroes in the former expedition against Duquesne to cause him to decidedly prefer provincial troops.

"Besides," continued General Forbes, "the report of General Braddock to his government describes the old road as fearful, in consequence of dense forests, huge rocks, deep morasses, and plunging torrents."

"None of these things caused his defeat," remarked Washington in rather a sarcastic vein.

"As I understand it," added General Forbes, "there are not so thick woods and huge rocks, nor so perilous swamps and rivers by the proposed new route as there are by the old. Besides, the new road is fifty miles nearer."

"The shortest way may prove longer than the longest way if you have the short way to build," was Washington's significant reply.

The English officers were bound to have their own way, and they decided to make the new road, in view of which Washington wrote to the Speaker of the Assembly: "If this conduct of our leaders does not flow from superior orders, it must flow from a weakness too gross for me to name. Nothing now but a miracle can bring this campaign to a happy issue."

A few days later he wrote:

"I believe that all is lost. Our enterprise is ruined, and w[260]e shall be stopped this winter at the Laurel Hills."

As the sequel will show, Washington proved himself to be a prophet.

While these warlike preparations were going forward, Washington was elected to a seat in the House of Burgesses. It was not expected, however, that he would take his seat until the contemplated action against the French at Duquesne was consummated.

It was in the month of May, 1758, that Washington went to Williamsburg and found his future wife, when passing through Kent County. It was the 21st of September before the army was ready to strike their tents and take up the march from Raystown, where the whole army had assembled. Much of this time was fooled away by the English officers, who seemed to think that both French and Indians would take to their heels when they saw them coming.

Washington was greatly annoyed by this unnecessary delay. To him it was ominous of evil. He was impatient to plant the English flag on the walls of Duquesne, and to make the beautiful Mrs. Custis his bride. The sooner the army accomplished the former, the sooner he would realize the latter.

To add to his annoyance, General Forbes proposed to repeat General Braddock's folly, and send his regulars forward as a party of observation.

"Such an arrangement was the cause of General Braddock's defeat," he said to General Forbes.


"How so?"

"His regulars knew nothing about Indian warfare. They never saw savages on the field of battle, and so they undertook to fight Indians as they did French."

"Plenty of artillery, with a shower of bullets, whether by regulars or provincials, will do the business," remarked General Forbes, showing that he was as ignorant of the way savages fight as Braddock was.

"I hope I can say, without vanity," continued Washington, "that, from long intimacy with these woods, and frequent scouting in them, my men are at least as well acquainted with all the passes and difficulties as any troops that will be employed. I will volunteer to scour the country in advance of the army."

"You are brave and unselfish, certainly," answered Forbes; "but the regulars would hardly thank me for sending inexperienced troops forward instead of them."

"If General Braddock's regulars, who were shot down in their tracks, could come to life, they would thank you for doing this very thing," said Washington.

"Then you have no faith in the English army to fight Indians."

"None at all. Braddock's regulars were more terrified by the yell of the savages than they were by the cannon of the French."

"Well, then, colonel, I think we must redeem the credit of the British regulars by sending them forward at this time," answered General Forbes. [262]"If Braddock's regulars disgraced their country and cause, as you affirm they did, it is time that Forbes's regulars should wipe out the dishonor. And that can be done only by detailing them for the work proposed."

"As you please, general," answered Washington, seeing that Forbes was determined to employ his regulars as a scouting party. "You have my opinion, and you will have my obedience as heartily. Nothing that I can do to make this expedition successful shall be withholden."

Therefore the regulars scoured the country in advance, eight hundred in number. Washington wrote again concerning the prospects under these unwise arrangements:

"The golden opportunity has been lost, perhaps never more to return. Between building a new road and sending forward regulars to meet the Indians, our hope of success is small indeed. Small parties of Indians will effectually demoralize the English by keeping them under continual alarms, and attacking them in ambuscade."

The advance party was under the command of Major Grant, a conceited, overbearing officer, who was as ignorant of Indian tactics as a baby. Besides, his extreme self-confidence made him boastful and reckless, as he subsequently found to his sorrow and shame. One of Washington's biographers says of Grant:

"He was instructed to find out all he could about the enemy, without suffering the enemy to find out more than he could help about himself, and by all possible means to avoid a battle. Bu[263]t instead of conducting the expedition with silence and circumspection, he marched along in so open and boisterous a manner as made it appear he meant to give the enemy timely notice of his coming, and bully him into an attack even while yet on the way. The French, keeping themselves well-informed by their spies of his every movement, suffered him to approach almost to their very gates without molestation. When he got in the neighborhood of the fort, he posted himself on a hill overlooking it, and began throwing up intrenchments in full view of the garrison. As if all this were not imprudence enough, and as if bent on provoking the enemy to come out and give him battle on the instant, whether or no, he sent down a party of observation to spy out yet more narrowly the inside plan and defences of the fort, who were suffered not only to do this, but even to burn a house just outside the walls, and then return to their intrenchments without a hostile sign betokening the unseen foe so silent, yet watchful, within.

"Early the next morning, as if to give the enemy warning of the threatened danger, the drums of the regulars beat the réveille, and the bag-pipes of the Highlanders woke the forest-echoes far and wide with their wild and shrilly din."

During all this time there was silence in the fort, and no sign of the enemy anywhere around.

"No enemy is here; they have fled before us," said Major Grant to General Forbes. "The English regulars have frightened them out of their wits, and they have taken leg-bail."

"An illustration of the old adage, 'discretion is the better part of [264]valor,'" answered Forbes.

"And these are the heroic French and terrible savages of which that young American colonel tells so much!" continued Major Grant in a derisive manner. "All I regret is, that they did not stay to fight."

"It is too serious a joke to fit out this expedition and march through this wilderness for nothing," added General Forbes. "We ought to have one chance at the foe, if nothing more."

"Well, I am not disappointed in the least," responded Grant. "All this talk about the bravery of the French and the savagery of Indians is buncomb, and that is all. I will raise the English flag over the fort without a drop of blood being shed. Let me advance with the regulars; and Captain Lewis, with his Americans, remain behind with the baggage. We will show you how a fort can be taken."

"Your order shall be obeyed," replied Captain Lewis, although he looked with contempt upon the braggart whom he addressed.

General Braddock's blunder was repeated on that day. The regulars moved forward, and marched directly into an Indian ambuscade.

With unearthly yells the savages sprang from their hiding places, and poured a terrific fire into the faces of the regulars. At the same time the French rushed out of their fort, sending volley after volley of leaden death into their ranks. The English stood their ground for a moment, then broke and retreated in confusion. The savages, emboldened by their success, rushed on to more fearful slaughter, and between musket and tomahawk, butchery reigned supreme.


Major Lewis, who was left behind with the baggage, leaving fifty men under the charge of Captain Bullit to guard it, rushed forward with his Virginia force to the relief of the regulars. His timely aid checked the advance of the foe; but, in a hand to hand fight with an Indian warrior, he was taken prisoner, though not until the warrior lay dead at his feet.

Major Grant was taken prisoner, and would have been tomahawked on the spot but for the interposition of a French officer.

The retreat became a complete rout, the savages pursuing with their accustomed yells. Captain Bullit determined to resist the pursuit of the enemy by piling the baggage across the road for a barricade. Behind this, with his fifty men, he poured a deadly fire into the foe as they approached, volley after volley, checking their advance by striking terror to their hearts for a moment. Perceiving that he could not long hold out, he resorted to a strategy that would have been regarded barbarous if adopted by Indians. Irving speaks of it as follows:

"They were checked for a time, but were again pressing forward in greater numbers, when Bullit and his men held out the signal of capitulation, and advanced, as if to surrender. When within eight yards of the enemy, they suddenly leveled their arms, poured a most effectual volley, and then charged with the bayonet. The Indians fled in dismay, and Bullit took advantage of this check to retreat, with all speed, collecting the wounded and scattered fugitives as he advanced."

The whole of the straggling army did not reach Fort Loyal Harman at Laurel Hills until the fifth day of November. Many of the soldiers, [266]especially the wounded, suffered terribly on the retreat.

Washington was at Raystown when the attack was made upon the advance. Why and for what he was there, except by order of the commander, General Forbes, we know not. But he joined the beaten and demoralized army at Fort Loyal Harman.

"Braddock's folly repeated must end in Braddock's defeat and shame," he remarked, on hearing of the disaster. "The result is no worse than I feared."

"Your Virginians fought bravely," remarked General Forbes to Washington, evidently thinking that he had underrated their valor and efficiency.

"I am not surprised to hear it," replied Washington. "I knew that they would prove themselves equal to the occasion."

"Braver fellows never met a foe on the battlefield," continued General Forbes. "Our defeat would have been more bloody and shameful but for them."

"And if they had formed the advance, they would not have been caught in an Indian ambuscade," remarked Washington suggestively.

In this unfortunate battle the British lost twenty-one officers and two hundred and seventy-three privates in killed and wounded, more than one-third of the advance under Grant.

"Well," continued General Forbes, "this snow and freezing weather will compel us to go into winter quarters here. After this defeat we are not [267]in a condition to attack the fort immediately."

"Our prospects are not very flattering, it must be confessed," remarked Washington, without expressing his opinion of the unnecessary and foolish blunder that had brought them into this plight. Had he led his Virginia rangers in advance, such a disgraceful record would not have been made.

Washington prophesied that, between building a new road and sending regulars in advance, defeat was inevitable, and now General Forbes proposed to fulfil his prophecy.

"What is your advice, Colonel Washington, under the circumstances?" inquired General Forbes, evidently designing to atone somewhat for his previous shabby treatment of the young Virginia hero. "Is it wise to march against the fort at this late season and in this rough weather?"

Washington was not at all disposed to give advice after all his previous counsels had been treated with contempt; therefore he prolonged the conversation without gratifying the commanding general with an explicit statement of his opinions. In the midst of their interview two or three prisoners were brought in, and they gave such an account of the weakness and destitution of the French garrison that Washington advised an immediate advance upon the fort.

"Is it possible?" said General Forbes, doubting the statement.

"It is possible," answered Washington. "It is an easy matter to find out, however."

"We are not exactly prepared for such a movement now," replied the [268]general.

"I am at your service, general, with my rangers," answered Washington, in a tone which showed that he coveted the business. We strongly suspect that Washington was thinking of his promised bride, and desired to close the campaign against Duquesne that he might claim her. To go into winter quarters, and leave the fort to be captured another season, would put off his wedding-day far beyond his wishes. The understanding was, that he would not be married until after the fall of Duquesne.

"Your brave and generous offer is accepted, without conditions," General Forbes immediately replied, only too glad now to impose the labor and risk upon provincial troops.

"I will be ready to move to-morrow," added Washington with his usual promptness.

"As soon as you please, and in what manner you please. The whole thing is in your hands."

"Very well, sir; we march to-morrow," added Washington as he hurried away.

On the next day he took up the line of march towards Duquesne, proceeding with extreme caution as he approached the vicinity of the fort. The locality of the recent battle was marked by the dead bodies of their fallen brothers, a sickening spectacle to behold. Around them, too, were scattered the bones of comrades who fell in the first battle, three years before, a melancholy reminder of the defeat and death which followed the blundering of conceited officers.


No sign of the enemy appeared. Silence reigned supreme. Scouts reported no trace of the foe. Still the "rangers" moved forward with the utmost caution. Indians could not surprise them now.

Coming in sight of the fort, they saw that it was deserted. No flag floated over its walls. On the double-quick, Washington led his troops into it, and not a Frenchman or Indian was found. The wooden buildings were burned to ashes, together with such baggage and other material as the occupants could not carry away in boats. Not a cannon, gun, or cartridge remained. Washington planted the English flag upon the walls of the fort with his own hand, on the twenty-fifth day of November, 1758.

It was learned, subsequently, that on account of the signal victories of the British army in Canada, no reinforcements or provisions were received at Duquesne. As the French garrison was in urgent need of both, the commander concluded, on the approach of Washington's command, that the better part of valor would be to abandon it; hence its evacuation.

Washington adopted immediate and vigorous measures to rebuild the fort, to which he gave the name of Fort Pitt, in honor of the great English statesman, through whose influence the British Government finally ordered the capture of the fort. Leaving a sufficient number of troops to garrison it, he returned to Laurel Hill, whence he wrote to the Governor of Virginia, in behalf of his needy soldiers at Duquesne, as follows:

"Considering their present circumstances," he writes: "I would by no means have consented to leave any part of them there, had not the general given me express orders.... By their presen[270]t nakedness, the advanced season, and the inconceivable fatigues of an uncommonly long and laborious campaign, they are rendered totally incapable of any sort of service; and sickness, death, and desertion must, if they are not speedily supplied, greatly reduce their numbers. To replace them with equally good men will, perhaps, be found impossible."

Irving says, "One of the first offices of the army, after taking possession of the fort, was to collect and bury, in one common tomb, the bones of their fellow-soldiers who had fallen in the battles of Braddock and Grant. In this pious duty it is said every one joined, from the general down to the private soldier; and some veterans assisted, with heavy hearts and frequent ejaculations of poignant feeling, who had been present in the scenes of defeat and carnage."

The fall of Duquesne brought to an end the domination of the French on the Ohio, as Washington predicted, restoring peace to the frontier. Hostile Indians hastened to cast in their allegiance to the English, who had become conquerors, thus laying aside both tomahawk and scalping-knife, at least for a season.

Washington resolved to abandon military life and retire to his estate at Mount Vernon, exchanging the hardships of war for the blessings of peace. He sent in his resignation, whereupon the officers of his command presented him with a flattering testimonial, from which we make the following extracts:

"Sir, we, your most obedient and affectionate officers, beg leave to express our great concern at the disagreeable news we have received of your determination to resign the command o[271]f that corps in which we have so long served under you. The happiness we have enjoyed, and the honor we have acquired, together with the mutual regard which has always subsisted between you and your officers, have implanted so sensible an affection in the minds of us all, that we cannot be silent on this critical occasion.

"In our earliest infancy you took us under your tuition, trained us up in the practice of that discipline which alone can constitute good troops, from the punctual observation of which you never suffered the least deviation.

"Your steady adherence to impartial justice, your quick discernment, and invariable regard to merit, wisely intended to inculcate these genuine sentiments of true honor and passion for glory, from which the greatest military achievements have been derived, first heightened our natural emulation and our desire to excel. How much we improved by those regulations and your own example, with what alacrity we have hitherto discharged our duty, with what cheerfulness we have encountered the severest toil, especially while under your particular directions, we submit to yourself, and flatter ourselves that we have, in a great measure, answered your expectations.

"Judge, then, how sensibly we must be affected by the loss of such an excellent commander, such a sincere friend, and so affable a companion.... It gives us additional sorrow, when we reflect, to find our unhappy country will receive a loss no less irreparable than our own. Where will it meet a man so experienced in military affairs—one so renowned for patriotism, conduct, and courage? Who has so great a knowledge of the enem[272]y we have to deal with?... Who, in short, so able to support the military character of Virginia?

"Your approved love to your king and country, and your uncommon perseverance in promoting the honor and true interest of the service, convince us that the most cogent reasons only could induce you to quit it; yet we, with the greatest deference, presume to entreat you to suspend those thoughts for another year, and to lead us on to assist in the glorious work of extirpating our enemies, towards which so considerable advances have been already made. In you we place the most implicit confidence. Your presence only will cause a steady firmness and vigor to actuate in every breast, despising the greatest dangers, and thinking light of toils and hardships, while led on by the man we know and love."

This tribute to the character of an honored commander conveys to the reader a clear view of his illustrious position in the army, confirming the favorable opinions hitherto expressed by the author.


Washington renounced military life to claim his bride. He was married at the "White House" on the 6th of January, 1759, a few weeks before his [273]twenty-seventh birthday. Mrs. Custis was three months younger than the bridegroom.

At seventeen years of age, Miss Martha Dandridge (for such was her maiden name) was a gay and beautiful belle, having many suitors, upon none of whom she looked favorably, except Colonel Daniel Parke Custis, son of Hon. John Custis of Arlington. To him she was married in 1749. Two sons and a daughter were the fruits of this marriage, the eldest of whom died a short time before his father. The biographer of Mr. Custis records an incident which furnishes a key to the character of this worthy and influential gentleman:

"A short time before his death, he sent for a tenant, to whom, in settling an account, he was due one shilling. The tenant begged that the colonel, who had ever been most kind to his tenantry, would not trouble himself at all about such a trifle, as he, the tenant, had forgotten it long ago. 'But I have not,' rejoined the just and conscientious landlord; and bidding his creditor take up the coin, which had been purposely placed on his pillow, exclaimed, 'Now my accounts are closed with this world!' and shortly after expired."

The loss of both husband and son was a terrible affliction to the youthful widow; yet her Christian hope sustained her wonderfully, so that she did not abandon herself to useless repinings. Her husband left her his large plantation, and from one to two hundred thousand dollars in money, the care of which, with her two surviving children, imposed new and unusual duties upon her. How well she met these responsibilities is told by her husband's biographer, thus:

"Mrs. Custis, as sole executrix, managed the extensive lande[274]d and pecuniary concerns of the estates with surprising ability, making loans on mortgage of moneys, and, through her stewards and agents, conducting the sales or exportations of the crops to the best possible advantage."

"Beautiful, gifted, with great fascination of manners, unusually accomplished, extremely wealthy, and youthful," as another has said, it is not surprising that, when the usual period of seclusion and mourning had passed, her hand and heart were sought by other worthy men. It was not, however, until she providentially met Colonel Washington, in the manner we have described, that she was at all disposed to enter into another matrimonial alliance.

The wedding of Washington was a splendid affair conducted after the old English style that prevailed among wealthy planters. Military and civil officers with their wives, graced the occasion. Ladies appeared in the costliest brocades, laces, and jewels which the Old World could provide. The bride was arrayed in the height of English fashion, her wealth of charms a fit accompaniment to the manly beauty of the bridegroom, who stood six feet and three inches in his shoes, "The tallest and handsomest man of the Old Dominion."

An old negro servant of Mrs. Custis expressed his views of his new master, as follows:


"Never seed the like, sir,—never the like of him, though I have seen many in my day,—so tall, so straight! And then, sir, he sat on a horse and rode with such an air! Ah, sir, he was like no one else! Many of the grandest gentlemen, in the gold lace, were at the wedding, but none looked like the man himself."

Washington resided at the "White House" three months before taking his seat in the House of Burgesses. That he had resolved to abandon a military career, and that his new relation afforded him unalloyed pleasure, is quite evident from what he wrote to a friend:

"I am now, I believe, fixed in this seat, with an agreeable partner for life; and I hope to find more happiness in retirement than I ever experienced in the wide and bustling world."

From a child, Mrs. Washington had enjoyed the luxuries and society that wealth multiplies. Her own property, now united to that of her husband, amounted to a large fortune. She could live in princely style, although she adopted that style only so far as her social position demanded. There was an aristocratic element that ruled in Virginia at that time, embracing the wealthy, cultured, and ruling classes, to which she belonged; and to this standard of living she was obliged to conform. Her home was the resort of the wealthiest and most influential people of Virginia.

After three months had elapsed, Washington took his seat in the Legislature. That body arranged to honor the hero as soon as he appeared in the House, by a eulogistic address by the speaker. No sooner had he taken his seat, than the speaker, Mr. Robinson, immediately arose, and, commanding silence, addressed Washington in such language of praise as only true patriotism, united with personal friendship, could dictate; enlarging upon his heroic deeds for his country in its time of its greatest peril. As he closed, the whole Assembly rose to their feet, and saluted the young colonel with a bow.


Had an earthquake suddenly shaken the Capitol to its centre, Washington would not have been more completely surprised. He was confounded. He rose to make his acknowledgments, but, alas! his tongue had forgotten its office. Thrice he essayed to speak, and thrice, in spite of every effort, his utterance failed him, save faintly to articulate, "Mr. Speaker! Mr. Speaker!"

The speaker was equal to the occasion, and came to his relief in one of the best, quick-witted sallies on record.

"Colonel Washington," he exclaimed, "sit down! sit down! Your modesty alone is equal to your merit."

Soon after the adjournment of the Legislature, Washington removed his family to Mount Vernon, to devote himself to agricultural pursuits. For fifteen years he continued to abide there in domestic enjoyment. Every year of this fifteen he was elected to the House of Burgesses, where his counsels and great influence became indispensable. Still he was a farmer on a large scale, and devoted himself to the improvement of his estates, and the raising of wheat, corn, and tobacco. The landed estates of both himself and wife must have numbered more than twenty thousand acres, for his Mount Vernon estate alone amounted to over nine thousand acres. Then he owned large tracts of land outside, containing thousands of acres. Add to these extensive tracts the Custis estates, and we find him one of the largest landholders of North America.

A thousand persons were required to perform the labors of his domestic and agricultural establishments, including his negroes. The products of his plantations were shipped to his agent in England; and he came to enjoy such a reputation there as a successful and upright planter, that [277]the usual custom-house inspection of all packages and goods marked "George Washington" was omitted. A record of his products before us for a single year shows that he raised ten thousand bushels of corn and seven thousand bushels of wheat. One hundred cows, with oxen, horses, and mules in that proportion, stocked his immense estate. His farming implements, carriages, and the nicer materials for clothing himself and family, were imported from England. With this exception, the linen and woollen cloths used were made by hand on his own plantation. Sixteen spinning-wheels were kept in operation.

Mrs. Washington took her position in this immense establishment as mistress, proving that her accomplishments and education under the influence of wealth did not make her vain and aristocratic. Unlike many planters' wives of that day, she did not consider that labor was degrading. She was provided with all the servants necessary, but she relinquished to no one, however competent, the oversight of her household affairs. "Carrying her keys at her side, and making frequent visits to the various apartments connected with the elaborate arrangements of the table and its 'aids and appliances,' the spotless purity of her attire always remained unsullied by her active participation in the mysteries of each and all." Neatness, order, and industry characterized her in the house, as they did her husband on the farm.

That great care and responsibility must have devolved upon Mrs. Washington, appears from Irving's description of a Virginia estate.

"A large Virginia estate in those days was a little empire," he says. "The mansion-house was the seat of government, with its numerous dependencies, such as kitchens, smoke-house, work-shops, and stables. In this mansion the planter moved supreme; his steward, or overseer, was [278]his prime minister and executive officer; he had his legion of house negroes for domestic service, and his host of field negroes for the culture of tobacco, Indian corn, and other crops, and for other out-of-door labor. Their quarter formed a kind of hamlet apart, composed of various huts, with little gardens and poultry yards, all well stocked, and swarms of little negroes gambolling in the sunshine. Then there were large wooden edifices for curing tobacco, the staple and most profitable production, and mills for grinding wheat and Indian corn, of which large fields were cultivated for the supply of the family and the maintenance of the negroes."

At the same time that Mrs. Washington had to preside over the farm-house for the sake of the one thousand souls on the large estate, she was obliged to conduct her domestic affairs in a costly and fashionable way for the sake of her guests. Her wardrobe, furniture, and preparations for special occasions were necessarily elaborate and expensive, for her mansion was the resort of the most distinguished men and women of the country. Almost every day some civil or military gentleman of distinction was found at her table. Hence, much style and expense were required to maintain her hospitable board. A silver service was demanded by the times, the manners and customs of which were imported from England. All other appointments corresponded with this royal standard. Irving says that Washington's "intimacy with the Fairfaxes and his intercourse with British officers of rank had their influence on his mode of living."

Mrs. Washington had her chariot and four, with driver and black postilion in livery, more, perhaps, to entertain and honor her distinguished guests than for personal enjoyment. Her husband usually appeared on horseback. He loved horses, especially fine ones, and most [279]of those in his stables were imported. To each he gave a name, suggested by some quality that attracted his observant eye, as Ajax, Blueskin, Valiant, Magnolia (Arabian), etc. Several noble dogs for fox-hunting were found about his house and stable—Vulcan, Singer, Ringwood, Sweetlips, Forrester, Music, Rockwood and Truelove. With such preparations, an English baronet and his wife, Lord Fairfax, the wealthy fox-hunter, provincial governors and generals, or the ordinary farmer, could all be accommodated on the Mount Vernon estate.

An order sent to England in 1759 shows that Mrs. Washington's wardrobe received particular attention:

"A salmon-colored Tabby (velvet), with satin flowers for sack and coat.

"One cap, handkerchief and tucker and ruffles, to be made of Brussels lace or Point, proper to be worn with the above; to cost £20 (one hundred dollars).

"Two fine flowered lawn aprons.

"Two pairs women's white silk hose.

"Six pairs fine cotton do.

"Six pairs thread do., four threaded.

"One pair black and one pair white satin shoes of the smallest fives.


"Four pairs Calimanco do.

"One fashionable hat or bonnet.

"Six pairs women's best kid gloves.

"Six pairs do. mits.

"One doz. round silk lace.

"One doz. most fashionable cambric pocket h'k'c'fs.

"Six lbs. perfumed powder.

"One piece narrow white satin ribbon, pearl edge."

Fashion ruled with mighty power at that time, and Mrs. Washington was one of its votaries from necessity, if not from choice. Her husband, too, paid much attention to dress; nor was it the result of her influence. Before he became acquainted with her, in one of his orders sent to England appears the following:

"Two pairs fine worked ruffles, at 20s. per pair.

"Two sets complete shoe brushes.

"Six pairs thread hose at 5s.


"Enough superfine blue cotton velvet for coat, waistcoat, and breeches, with fine silk buttons to match, and necessary trimmings, with garters for the breeches.

"Six pairs of the very neatest shoes; two pairs double chancelled pumps; two pairs turned ditto; and two pairs stitched shoes; to be made by Didsberry, over Col. Beiler's last.

"Six pairs gloves; three pairs for riding, with slit tops."

As if fearing that the claims of fashion might not be carefully regarded, he added, "If worked ruffles should be out of fashion, send such as are not."

An order for an outfit for horse-back riding shows how much attention was paid to comfort and appearance at that time among the wealthy planters of Virginia:

"One man's riding-saddle, hogskin seat, large-plated stirrups, and everything complete; double-reined bridle and Pelham bit, plated.

"A very neat and fashionable Newmarket saddle-cloth.

"A large and best portmanteau, saddle, bridle, and pillion.

"Cloak-bag, surcingle, checked saddle-cloth, holster, &c.

"A riding-frock of a handsome drab-colored broadcloth, with plain, double-gilt buttons.

"A riding waistcoat of superfine scarlet cloth and gold lace, with buttons like those of the coat.


"A blue surtout coat.

"A neat switch whip, silver cap.

"Black velvet cap for servant."

Mrs. Washington devoted herself to the education of her two children, six and four years of age at the time of her marriage with Washington. Had their own father been living, he could not have co-operated with their mother more cheerfully and tenderly than Washington did. Their father left a fortune to each of them, and that fact determined the character and methods of their training, agreeable to the custom of that day and locality. The following order for articles for the children is quite instructive as to the management of the Mount Vernon home:

"For Master Custis, 6 years old."

"One piece Irish Holland, at 4s.

"Two yards fine cambric, at 10s.

"Six pocket handkerchiefs, small and fine.

"Six pairs gloves.

"Two laced hats.

"Two pieces India nankeen.

"Six pairs fine thread stockings.


"Four pairs coarser do.

"Four pairs worsted do.

"Four pairs strong shoes.

"Four pairs pumps.

"One summer suit of clothes, to be made of some thing light and thin.

"Three fine ivory combs.

"Two horn do. and two brushes.

"One piece black hair-ribbon.

"One pair handsome silver shoe and knee buckles.

"Six little books for children beginning to read.

"One light duffel cloak with silver frogs.

"10s. worth of toys."

"For Miss Custis, 4 years old."

"Eight yards fine printed linen, at 3s. 6d.

"One piece Irish Holland, at 4s.


"Two ells fine Holland, at 10s.

"Eight pairs kid mits.

"Four pairs gloves.

"Two pairs silk shoes.

"Four pairs Calimanco do.

"Four pairs leather pumps.

Six pairs fine thread stockings.

"Four pairs worsted do.

"Half piece flowered dimity.

"Two yards fine cambric, at 10s.

"Two caps, two pairs ruffles, two tuckers, bibs, and aprons, if fashionable.

"Two fans, two masks, two bonnets.

"Two m. minikins, one cloth cloak.

"One stiffened coat of fashionable silk, made to packthread stays.


"Six yards ribbon.

"Two necklaces.

"One pair silver sleeve buttons, with stone.

"One fashionable, dressed baby, 10s., and other toys, 10s.

"Six pocket handkerchiefs."

This insight into the early wedded life of Washington, a hundred and twenty years ago, upsets the notions of those people, in our day, who suppose that the sway of fashion belongs to modern times only.

Mrs. Washington was proverbially kind to her slaves, though not more so than her husband. They constituted a part of her family, for whom she had to provide both in health and sickness. This fact explains several entries in his journal concerning the quantity of provisions used. For example, one entry is, "Although we keep one hundred and one cows, we have to buy some butter."

Among their slaves were all kinds of artificers—carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, wheel-wrights, and so forth. All these were indispensable on such an establishment, since a plantation must necessarily produce whatever ordinary use required. This arrangement imposed increased burdens upon the master of the plantation and the mistress of the house.

Mrs. Washington was as domestic in the house as her husband was practical on the farm. His journal shows that, unlike many of the large [286]planters, he labored with his men on the plantation.

"Fitted a two-eyed plough instead of a duck-bill plough, and with much difficulty made my chariot wheel-horses plough. Put the pole-end horses into the plough in the morning, and put in the postilion and hind horses in the afternoon; but the ground being well swarded over, and very heavy ploughing, I repented putting them in at all, for fear it should give them a habit of stopping in the chariot."

"Spent the greater part of the day in making a new plough of my own invention."

"Bottled thirty-five dozen of cider."

"Seven o'clock a messenger came to inform me that my mill was in great danger of being destroyed by the flood. I immediately hurried off all hands, with shovels, etc., to its assistance, and got there myself just time enough to give it a reprieve for this time, by wheeling gravel into the place the water had washed."

"Surveyed some lines of my Mount Vernon tract of land."

"Employed in running some lines between me and Mr. William Triplet."

"Surveyed the water-courses of my Mount Vernon tract of land, taking advantage of the ice."

"Laid out a road from Mount Vernon to the lane of Mr. Marley's."

Irving says of Washington: "He was an early riser, often before [287]day-break in the winter, when the nights were long. On such occasions he lit his own fire and wrote or read by candle-light. He breakfasted at seven in summer and eight in winter. Two small cups of tea and three or four cakes of Indian meal (called hoe-cakes) formed his frugal repast. Immediately after breakfast he mounted his horse, and visited those parts of the estate where any work was going on, seeing to everything with his own eyes, and often aiding with his own hands."

Soon after he introduced his wife to his Mount Vernon estate, he began to improve and adorn the grounds. He made lawns, laid out walks and avenues, set out a great number of ornamental trees, and planted orchards of fruit-trees. He posted himself as far as possible in the science of agriculture, and made many improvements upon his plantations, by reclaiming land and increasing the productive power of the soil.

Once he conceived the idea of reclaiming the Great Dismal Swamp, and actually explored it with reference to that ultimate purpose. Through his agency, the incorporated company known as the Dismal Swamp Company was organized. "This vast morass was about thirty miles long and ten miles wide, and its interior but little known" until Washington explored it, and found a lake six miles long and three miles wide near its centre.

The large number of guests at Mount Vernon, and Washington's enjoyment in hunting, fishing, and visiting, particularly in winter time, when the cares of his plantation were less numerous, appear from his journal. In the month of January, 1770, are the following entries:

"2. Mr. Peake dined here.

"4. Went hunting with John Custis and Lund Washington. Started a [288]deer, and then a fox, but got neither.

"5. Went to Muddy Hole and Dogue Run. Took the dogs with me, but found nothing. Warner Washington and Mr. Thurston came in the evening.

"6. The two Col. Fairfaxes dined here, and Mr. R. Alexander and the two gentlemen that came the day before.

"8. Went hunting with Mr. Alexander, J. Custis, and Lund Washington. Killed a fox after three hours' chase. Mr. Thurston came in the afternoon.

"9. Went a ducking, but got nothing, the creek and rivers being frozen. Robert Adam dined here.

"10. Went hunting on the Neck, and visited the plantation there, and killed a fox after treeing it three times and chasing it three hours.

"13. Dined at Belvoir with Mrs. Washington and Mr. and Miss Custis.

"15. Went up to Alexandria, expecting court, but there was none. [He was county judge.]

"20. Went hunting with Jackay Custis, and killed a fox after a three hours' chase.

"23. Went hunting after breakfast, and found a fox at Muddy Hole [289]and killed her. Mr. Temple and Mr. Robert Adam dined here.

"27. Went hunting; and after tracking a fox a good while, the dogs raised a deer and ran out of the Neck with it, and did not come home till the next day.

"28. Mr. Temple came here.

"29. Dined at Belvoir with J. P. Custis.

"30. Went hunting, and having found a deer, it ran to the head of the Neck before we could stop the dogs. Mr. Peake dined here."

In the following month, February, fox-hunting occupied nine days, and five days were given to surveying.

The laws of Virginia were very strict against interlopers on the Potomac. They were a great nuisance to the wealthy planters on its banks. Fishing and duck-hunting lured them thither. One day Mrs. Washington remarked to her husband, "I think that strangers are at the landing."

"Are you sure they are strangers?"

"Yes, I think so," Mrs. Washington answered. "Look and see."

"They are strangers, surely," responded Washington, after a critical look towards the landing. "An oysterman's craft, I think."

"What should an oysterman come to our landing for?"


"We shall find out before long, no doubt," Washington replied.

It was at the landing where the family barge was tied up. The affluent planters kept beautiful barges, imported from England, for the use of their families. Washington had one, rowed by six negroes, wearing a kind of uniform of check shirts and black velvet caps.

They did find out very soon who the strangers were—an oysterman and his crew. They were a drunken, noisy rabble, who disturbed the neighborhood with their yells and revelry.

"They must be sent away," remarked Washington, as he hurried toward the landing. But they were not in a condition to listen to his counsels. They were in the defiant state of intoxication, and refused to evacuate. They declared themselves able and determined "to hold the fort."

The hero of Monongahela was not to be defied in that way. He adopted immediate measures to drive the mob away, but was not successful. Finally, summoning his negroes, and organizing a campaign against them, he forced them to leave, though, Irving says, "It took a campaign of three days to expel these invaders from the premises."

At another time Washington was riding over his estate, when the report of a gun on the banks of the river, not far away, startled him. Turning his horse in the direction of the report, he soon discovered an interloper in a canoe, making havoc among the canvas-back ducks which were numerous on the river.

"Stranger," he called.


The hunter looked up.

"By what authority are you trespassing upon these grounds?"

The only reply that Washington received was, the hunter aimed his gun at him as if to fire. But the owner of Mount Vernon had seen guns pointed at him before; and, nothing daunted, he dashed into the river, shouting, "Fire if you dare!"

Seizing the painter of the canoe, he drew it to the shore; then, springing from his horse, he wrested the gun from the hands of the astonished hunter.

"I am the proprietor of this estate," he shouted, seizing the fellow by the nape of his neck and pulling him out of his canoe, "and we will see whose rights are to be regarded."

The hunter begged for mercy, promising to quit the grounds and never more trespass upon them. Washington restored his gun to him, and allowed him to depart without further punishment.

Mr. and Mrs. Washington were active and influential members of the Episcopal Church. Irving says:

"The Episcopal Church predominated throughout the 'Ancient Dominion,' as it was termed. Each county was divided into parishes, as in England, each with its parochial church, its parsonage, and glebe. Washington was vestryman of two parishes,—Fairfax and Truro. The parochial church of the former was at Alexandria, ten miles from Mount Vernon; of the latter[292], at Pohick, about seven miles. The church at Pohick was rebuilt on a plan of his own, and in a great measure at his expense. At one or other of these churches he attended every Sunday, when the weather and the roads permitted. His demeanor was reverential and devout. Mrs. Washington knelt during the prayers; he always stood, as was the custom at that time."

One of Mrs. Washington's biographers says of her:

"It is recorded of this devout Christian that never, during her life, whether in prosperity or adversity, did she omit that daily self-communion and self-examination, and those private devotional exercises, which would best prepare her for the self-control and self denial by which she was, for more than half a century, so eminently distinguished. It was her habit to retire to her own apartment every morning after breakfast, there to devote an hour to solitary prayer and meditation."

Mount Vernon was a home of prayer, of course. The presence of guests, however distinguished, never modified the family devotions. These were among the essentials of good family government. In one of Washington's orders sent to England is the following:

"A small Bible, neatly bound in Turkey, and "John Parke Custis" wrote in gilt letters on the inside of the cover.

"A neat small prayer-book bound as above, with "John Parke Custis," as above."

The necessity of erecting a new house of worship was discussed in the [293]vestry of Truro, and a vote in favor of the project was secured. On the location, the vestrymen were divided.

"The old site is the proper one," said Mr. George Mason, whose residence was near the house of worship.

"Not at all central," replied another.

"Yet not so far aside as to discommode any one," responded Mason.

"I beg leave to dissent from Mr. Mason," added a third. "The location is inconvenient for my family."

"The sacred associations of the spot alone ought to keep the church there," urged Mr. Mason. "For generations our house of worship has stood there, and the place is hallowed by the sepulchres of our fathers around it."

The subject was discussed, pro and con, when Washington's opinion was asked. Without reserve he remarked:

"I cannot agree with my friend Mason that the location does not sensibly inconvenience some members of the parish. I think it does, and that a more central locality can be found. Neither can I see the force of his argument derived from the contiguity of the grave-yard. Churches are erected for the living, and not for the dead. The ashes of the dead can be sacredly protected by a suitable enclosure."

The vestry adjourned without deciding upon the location, and before the next meeting, Washington carefully surveyed the parish, and made a neat [294]plan of the same, showing that the old location was far from the centre. Mr. Mason urged with more earnestness than before the claims of the old site. But when Washington took his plan of survey from his pocket, and gave ocular demonstration that the old location was at one side of the parish, the new location was adopted at once.

Rev. Lee Massey was rector of the church at that time, and he said of Washington:

"I never knew so constant an attendant on church as Washington. And his behavior in the house of God was ever so deeply reverential that it produced the happiest effects on my congregation, and greatly assisted me in my pulpit labors. No company ever kept him from church. I have often been at Mount Vernon on the Sabbath morning when his breakfast-table was filled with guests; but to him they furnished no pretext for neglecting his God and losing the satisfaction of setting a good example. For, instead of staying at home out of false complaisance to them, he used constantly to invite them to accompany him."

Mrs. Washington's daughter died in 1770, after a lingering and painful disease. It was a terrible blow to her; and how severe a blow it was to her husband may be learned from the following incident:

Coming into the room when his wife's face was buried in her hands, convulsed with grief, he burst into tears, kneeled beside the bed, and poured out his soul in a most fervent prayer that God would yet spare the dear girl for the sake of her mother, and for Christ's sake. She had already breathed her last [295]a moment before he entered the room; but, in his great sympathy for his wife, and his own passionate grief, the fact was unrecognized, and he sought relief in prayer.

The son was between sixteen and seventeen years of age when the daughter died, and was beginning to be a very wayward boy. He was sent to an Episcopal school at Annapolis, Maryland, where he attended to fox-hunting and other amusements more than he did to his studies. He fell in love, also, with Eleanor Calvert, daughter of Benedict Calvert of Mount Airy, and he entered into a matrimonial engagement with her. Mrs. Washington was very much tried by the course of the young man, and, after canvassing the whole subject carefully with her husband, he addressed a letter to Miss Calvert's father, which was a compliment alike to his head and heart. It was a very long letter, and we have space for brief extracts only:

Mount Vernon, April 3, 1773.

"Dear Sir,—I am now set down to write to you on a subject of importance, and of no small embarrassment to me. My son-in-law and ward, Mr. Custis, has paid his addresses to your second daughter, and, having made some progress in her affections, has solicited her in marriage. How far a union of this sort may be agreeable to you, you best can tell; but I should think myself wanting in candor were I not to confess that Miss Nelly's amiable qualities are acknowledged on all hands, and that an alliance with your family will be pleasing to his.

"This acknowledgment being made, you must permit me to add sir, that at this, or in any short time, his youth, inexperience, and unripened education, are, and will be, insuperable obstacles, in [296]my opinion, to the completion of the marriage. As his guardian, I consider it my indispensable duty to endeavor to carry him through a regular course of education, and to guard his youth to a more advanced age, before an event on which his own peace and the happiness of another are to depend, takes place....

"If the affection which they have avowed for each other is fixed upon a solid basis, it will receive no diminution in the course of two or three years, in which time he may prosecute his studies, and thereby render himself more deserving of the lady and useful to society. If, unfortunately, as they are both young, there should be an abatement of affection on either side, or both, it had better precede, than follow, marriage.

"Delivering my sentiments thus freely will not, I hope, lead you into a belief that I am desirous of breaking off the match. To postpone it is all I have in view; for I shall recommend to the young gentleman, with the warmth that becomes a man of honor, to consider himself as much engaged to your daughter as if the indissoluble knot was tied; and, as the surest means of affecting this, to apply himself closely to his studies, by which he will, in a great measure, avoid those little flirtations with other young ladies, that may, by dividing the attention, contribute not a little to divide the affections."

The result of this correspondence was that Washington took young Custis to King's (now Columbia) College, New York City, and entered him for two years. But love had so much more control of his heart than learning had of his head, that he remained there only a few months, when he returned to Mount Vernon, and was married to Miss Calvert on Feb. 3, 1774. The [297]couple were nineteen and seventeen years of age, respectively, and their marriage proved a very fortunate event for themselves, and the families on both sides.

The following incident, illustrative of Washington's fine personal appearance, transpired when he accompanied his step-son to New York. It is from the pen of Mr. Custis:

"It was boasted at the table of the British governor that a regiment, just landed from England, contained among its officers some of the finest specimens of martial elegance in his Majesty's service; in fact, the most superb-looking fellows ever landed upon the shores of the new World. 'I wager your excellency a pair of gloves,' said Mrs. Morris, an American lady, 'that I will show you a finer man in the procession to-morrow than your excellency can select from your famous regiment;'—'Done, madam!' replied the governor. The morrow came (the fourth of June), and the procession, in honor of the birthday of the king, advanced through Broadway to the strains of military music. As the troops filed before the governor, he pointed out to the lady several officers by name, claiming her admiration for their superior persons and brilliant equipments. In rear of the troops came a band of officers not on duty, colonial officers, and strangers of distinction. Immediately, on their approach, the attention of the governor was seen to be directed toward a tall and martial figure, that marched with grave and measured tread, apparently indifferent to the scene around him. The lady now archly observed, 'I perceive that your excellency's eyes are turned to the right object; what say you to your wager now, sir?'—'Lost, madam,' replied the gallant governor; 'when I laid my wager I was not aware that Colone[298]l Washington was in New York.'"

Washington kept his own books at the same time that he attended to the business of his vast estates. The same neatness, method, and accuracy characterized his accounts at Mount Vernon that characterized his writing books at Mr. Williams' school. They were models.

When Mrs. Washington went to Mount Vernon to live, the mansion contained only four square rooms on the ground. In this condition it remained until the close of the Revolution.

During the Revolution she was wont to spend the winter with her husband in his winter quarters. The accommodations were always meagre. One of these winters he occupied a small frame house, unfurnished in the second story. The general could get along with the meagre comforts, but he desired better accommodations for his wife. So he sent for a young mechanic and fellow-apprentice.

"Mrs. Washington will tell you what she wants, and you will make the changes under her direction," he said to them.

Soon Mrs. Washington was in their presence.

"Now, young men," she said, "I care for nothing but comfort here, and should like you to fit me up a beaufet on one side of the room, and some shelves and places for hanging clothes on the other."

The mechanic said afterwards that "every morning Mrs. Washington came up-stairs to see us; and after she and the general had dined, she always called us down to eat at her table. We worked very hard, nailing smooth [299]boards over the rough and worm-eaten planks, and stopping the crevices in the walls made by time and hard usage. We studied to do everything to please so pleasant a lady, and to make some return in our humble way for the kindness of the general."

When the work was completed, Mrs. Washington was surveying it, when the mechanic said, "Madam, we have endeavored to do the best we could. I hope we have suited you."

"I am astonished," Mrs. Washington replied. "Your work would do honor to an old master, and you are mere lads. I am not only satisfied, but highly gratified with what you have done for my comfort."

She was accustomed to say, after the Revolution, "I heard the first cannon at the opening, and the last at the closing, of all the campaigns of the Revolutionary war."

She survived her husband by two years. As death drew near, with mind clear and heart staid on God, she awaited the final summons with calmness and sweet resignation. She called her grandchildren to her bedside, "discoursed to them of their respective duties, spoke of the happy influence of religion, and then triumphantly resigned her spirit into the hands of her Saviour," and expired.

Mount Vernon is now in a good state of preservation. A national association of women have charge of the place, that it may be kept in repair, and the relics—furniture, pictures, account books, library, etc.—be preserved for coming generations to see.



During the fifteen years of Washington's peaceful abode at Mount Vernon, public affairs were hastening to a crisis. The "Seven Years' War," beginning with Washington's attack upon De Jumonville, and ending with the surrender of Montreal and all Canada, and the signing of the treaty of peace at Fontainbleau, in 1763, had closed; but greater things awaited the colonists in the future.

Scarcely had the people settled down in the enjoyment of peace when an insurrection broke out among the Indian tribes, including the Delawares, Shawnees, and other tribes on the Ohio, with whom Washington had mingled. It was called "Pontiac's War," because Pontiac, a famous Indian chief, was its master-spirit. He induced the tribes to take up the hatchet against the English.

An attack was made upon all the English posts, from Detroit to Fort Pitt (late Duquesne). "Several of the small stockaded forts, the places of refuge of woodland neighbors, were surprised and sacked with remorseless butchery. The frontiers of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia were laid waste; traders in the wilderness were plundered and slain; hamlets and farm-houses were wrapped in flames, and their inhabitants massacred."

Washington was not engaged in this Indian war, which was short in duration. At the time he was pushing his project of draining the Dismal [301]Swamp.

Other things, however, of a public nature enlisted his attention, as the following interview with Mr. George Mason will show:

"It appears that the British Government propose to tax the Colonies to help pay its debts," remarked Mr. Mason. "At least, the subject is before Parliament for discussion."

"Yes," answered Washington, "and the proposition is as unjust as it is impolitic. After we have helped the king maintain his authority in this country, we must not only pay our own bills, but help him pay his. The Colonists will never submit to that."

"They never should, whether they will or not," replied Mason. "I understand that the British officers have represented to the government that the colonists are rich, and abundantly able to assist in paying the debt of England."

"And that comes from entertaining them in an extravagant way, as our leaders did. A few rich families furnished the silver plate and luxuries that dazzled the eyes of British officers." Here Washington referred to what he never approved, "borrowing silver and begging luxuries" to treat British officers with.

"But suppose Parliament actually imposes a tax upon us, and sends agents to collect it, what can be done?"

"Resist the tax," Washington replied.

"How resist?"


"There is but one way to resist; resort to arms." "And there will be a poor show for us against the king's armies," said Mason.

"And the king's temper," added Washington, alluding to the fact that King George the Third, then ruling England, was an ambitious, unprincipled, and tyrannical ruler.

"The king will not be very merciful towards rebels."

"No, of course not. I suppose that resistance to the tax will be rebellion."

"It cannot be anything else. Nevertheless, we can never submit to taxation without representation," added Washington, referring to the fact that the Colonists had neither voice nor vote in the administration of the British Government.

"Never! Even loyalty cannot approve so base an act of injustice."

"Especially after Parliament has gone to the verge of extortion by previous acts," remarked Washington. "Our ports are now shut against foreign vessels; we can export our productions only to countries belonging to the British Crown, and must import goods only from England, and in English ships. Neither can we manufacture anything that will interfere with the manufactures of England. These are intolerant measures."

"That is so; and I do not wonder that the New England Colonies, particularly, should remonstrate against these arbitrary restraints, [303]since their interests are chiefly commercial, and, therefore, more seriously affected by them."

"I doubt whether Parliament will venture upon so hazardous an experiment," continued Washington. "Walpole and Pitt, not to mention others, are opposed to this measure of deriving a revenue by taxation from the Colonies. Walpole said, 'It must be a bolder man than myself, and one less friendly to commerce, who should venture on such an expedient. For my part, I would encourage the trade of the Colonists to the utmost.' Such sentiments must have weight with the government."

Contrary to Washington's expectations, Parliament voted, in 1764, that England had a right to tax America; and Grenville, then at the head of the government, proceeded to preparations for taxing the Colonies. Through his influence, also, the "Stamp Act" was passed in March, 1765, whereby "all instruments in writing were to be executed on stamped paper, to be purchased from the agents of the British Government."

Other oppressive measures, also, were adopted subsequently, such as the appointment of judges by the English commissioners; that offenders should be tried in England for offences committed in America; with acts of lesser importance that infringed upon the rights of the people.

These things aroused the indignation of the Colonists, and the excitement grew to the highest pitch. In New England violent measures were adopted to express the indignant remonstrance of the people.

Two months after the passage of the "Stamp Act" in England, the Virginia Legislature convened at Williamsburg. Few of the members sympathized with the British Government. A large majority denounced the aforesaid measures as oppressive and tyrannical. Among the new members was Patrick [304]Henry, a young lawyer of fearless courage and fervid eloquence. Rising in his seat, he presented a series of resolutions, which declared that the House of Burgesses of Virginia alone possessed the right to tax the people of that Colony, and whoever maintained the contrary should be deemed an enemy to the Colony.

He supported these resolutions by a speech of surpassing eloquence, surprising his associates by his boldness and powerful oratory.

"The resolutions are inflammatory," objected the speaker, Mr. Robinson. "We can maintain our rights without challenging the arms of the mother-country."

"The resolutions are right in principle, but intemperate in spirit," remarked another.

"Our self-respect demands that we indignantly repel such invasion of our rights as taxation imposes!" exclaimed a third, in full accord with the resolutions.

After the discussion had proceeded for a while, a timid spirit being manifested by a few, and indignant remonstrance against British tyranny by the many, Patrick Henry rose to reply to objections advanced.

He vindicated colonial rights under the English Constitution by an argument of great power, showing how often and causelessly they had been assailed; and he justified the resolutions by the "cool deliberation" of Parliament in fastening the chains of slavery upon them. Warming with his theme, he advanced to matchless eloquence, and closed his philippic with such a daring burst of patriotism as startled the Assembly.


"Cæsar had his Brutus!" he shouted; "Charles his Cromwell, and George the Third"—

"Treason! Treason!" cried the speaker.

"And George the Third may profit by their examples!" finishing the sentence in thunder tones.

"Sir," he continued, after running his eye over the Assembly, "if this be treason (bowing to the speaker) make the most of it!"

Lieutenant-governor Fauquier was alarmed at this disloyal demonstration, and proceeded to dissolve the Assembly, though not until the resolutions were adopted in a modified form, still retaining, however, their patriotic spirit.

Washington supported the resolutions, and condemned the governor for dissolving the Assembly; and, as the governor ordered a new election, hoping thereby to secure a Legislature of truly loyal members, he recommended the re-election of those who voted for the resolutions, and the non-election of those who voted against them. The people were so impregnated with the spirit of Patrick Henry, that nearly every man who voted for the resolutions was returned to the next Assembly, and nearly all the others were left at home.

"Patrick Henry's course was treasonable," said Lord Fairfax to Washington. "A petition to the king, expressing our grievances, and praying for the removal of these oppressive measures would accomplish far more for us in my judgment."


"And yet Patrick Henry had right, justice, and patriotism on his side," replied Washington. "Without his spirit we should bend our necks to the British yoke, and become a nation of slaves."

"Yes; but appeal to the government should precede opposition," suggested Fairfax.

"We have appealed,—vainly appealed," answered Washington. "The New England Colonies have remonstrated again and again; but their remonstrances have been spurned. The British Government must understand the patriotic spirit that animates our people."

"All that is true; but it is not necessary to arouse the wrath of the British lion in order to accomplish that," remarked Fairfax.

"That is a matter which should not trouble us," replied Washington. "Our rights and liberties should be maintained at all hazards. And I am heartily in favor of the New England plan to cease using importations on which taxes are imposed."

"I am with you in that," said Fairfax.

"I confess that my sympathies are with the inhabitants of Boston, even in their violent demonstrations against the enforcement of these unjust measures."

"To what do you particularly refer?" inquired Lord Fairfax.

"The citizens of Boston hung the stamp distributor in effigy, broke the windows of his office, and finally tore his office down and made a [307]bonfire of the fragments. They closed their demonstration by pelting the officials, who interfered, with stones. The stamp distributor resigned his office at once."

"That is insurrection," remarked Fairfax.

"Very true, and I would not recommend a resort to such extreme measures; certainly not at this stage of affairs. Yet I really sympathize with the patriotic spirit that has aroused the people of Boston to repel acts of usurpation and tyranny."

Benjamin Franklin had been sent to England as an agent of the Colonies to intercede for their rights. He was summoned before a committee of Parliament, where the following colloquy occurred:

"What was the temper of America towards Great Britain before the year 1763?" That was the year of the treaty between England and France, as we have seen.

"The best in the world," Dr. Franklin answered. "They submitted willingly to the government of the Crown, and paid, in all their courts, obedience to the acts of Parliament. Numerous as the people are in the several old provinces, they cost you nothing in forts, citadels, garrisons, or armies, to keep them in subjection. They were governed by this country at the expense only of a little pen, ink, and paper. They were led by a thread.... Natives of Great Britain were always treated with particular regard; to be an Old England man was, of itself, a character of some respect, and gave a kind of rank among us."

"And what is their temper now?"[308]

"Oh, very much altered!"

"If the Stamp Act is not repealed, what do you think will be the consequences?"

"A total loss of the respect and affection the people of America bear to this country, and of all the commerce that depends on that respect and affection."

"Do you think the people of America would submit to pay the stamp duty if it was moderated?"

"No, never, unless compelled by force of arms."

This was stating the case without reserve; and, no doubt, it had much to do with the repeal of the Stamp Act in March, 1766.

It should not be overlooked that the Colonies had some strong friends in Parliament. Charles Townsend advocated the enforcement of the Stamp Act. "Who are these Americans?" he cried. "Are they not our children, planted by our care, nourished by our indulgence, and protected by our arms?"

The brave Colonel Barré, with cheeks all inflamed with virtuous indignation, replied:

"They planted by your care? No, sir; your oppressions planted them in America! They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated and inhospitable country, where they exposed themselves to all the evils which a wilderness, filled wit[309]h blood-thirsty savages, could threaten. And yet, actuated by true English love of liberty, they thought all these evils light in comparison with what they suffered in their own country, and from you, who ought to have been their friends.

"They nourished by your indulgence? No, sir; they grew by your neglect! As soon as you began to indulge them, that boasted indulgence was to send them hungry packs of your own creatures to spy out their liberties, to misrepresent their actions, and to prey upon their substance! Yes, sir; you sent them men, whose behavior has often caused the blood of those Sons of Liberty to recoil within them—men promoted by you to the highest seats of justice in that country, who, to my knowledge, had good cause to dread a court of justice in their own! They protected by your arms? No, sir! They have nobly taken up arms in your defence—have exerted a most heroic valor, amidst their daily labors, for the defence of a country whose frontier was drenched in blood, while its interior parts gave up all their savings to our emolument!"

These words of Barré were as just as they were heroic; for, in the "Seven Years' War" the Americans lost about thirty thousand men; and Massachusetts alone spent about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in defence of the country.

The next session of the House of Burgesses occurred after a Congress of delegates from the several Colonies met in New York City. The doings of that Congress were not suited to make the action of the Virginia Legislature more conciliatory, for that Congressional body denounced the acts of the British Parliament, and declared that Americans could never submit to such assaults upon their liberties.


The Virginia Assembly was more insurrectionary at the next session, startling the new governor (Lord Botetourt) to such a degree that he appeared in the council chamber personally, and said:

"Mr. Speaker, and gentlemen of the House of Burgesses, I have heard of your resolves, and augur ill of their effects. You have made it my duty to dissolve you, and you are dissolved accordingly."

The Burgesses adjourned to a private house, and made Peyton Randolph moderator. Here Washington presented "a draft of the articles of association, concerted between him and George Mason. They formed the ground-work of an instrument signed by all present, pledging themselves neither to import nor use any goods, merchandise, or manufactures taxed by Parliament to raise a revenue in America."

This plan had been adopted by the New England Colonies, and now measures were taken to make it universal.

Washington adhered scrupulously to the plan, and allowed nothing to come into his house with the tax of England upon it. He wrote to his London agent:

"You will perceive, in looking over the several invoices, that some of the goods there required are upon condition that the act of Parliament, imposing a duty on tea, paper, etc., for the purpose of raising a revenue in America, is totally repealed; and I beg the favor of you to be governed strictly thereby, as it will not be in my power to receive any articles contrary t[311]o our non-importation agreement, which I have subscribed and shall religiously adhere to, and should, if it were as I could wish it to be, ten times as strict."

He wrote to George Mason:

"Our all is at stake, and the little conveniences and comforts of life, when set in competition with our liberty, ought to be rejected not with reluctance, but with pleasure.... It is amazing how much this practice, if adopted in all the Colonies, would lessen the American imports, and distress the various traders and manufacturers in Great Britain."

Washington's prediction was fulfilled. The traders of England were embarrassed by non-importation, and appealed to the government for relief. The tax was removed from all articles except tea. It was retained on tea in order "to show the Colonies that England claimed the right of taxation."

To the Colonies a tax on one article was just as much an invasion of their rights as a tax upon all; so that the last act of Parliament was additional proof that England meant to force taxation upon them. Of course, as brave and fearless patriots, they resisted. Tea was universally discarded. Ship-loads of it in Boston, New York, and other ports were returned to England, or packed away to perish. In Boston seventeen citizens disguised themselves as Indians, boarded an English tea-vessel, and cast the tea into the dock. This act aroused the British lion, and he shook his mane and roared. Soon an English fleet appeared in Boston Harbor to reduce the inhabitants to subjection by force of arms. At the same time, the Boston Port Bill was enforced, thereby closing the harbor of that city to commerce.


The citizens refused to provide quarters for the English troops, and declared, in public assembly, that quartering British soldiers in the State House and Faneuil Hall, as the English officers had done, was a still further and graver invasion of their rights.

We should have said that the day on which the Stamp Act went into operation, Nov. 1, 1765, was observed throughout the Colonies as a day of fasting and prayer. The day was ushered in by the tolling of bells, as if the funeral ceremonies of the king himself were to be performed. Ships displayed their colors at half-mast. Business was suspended, and halls and churches were opened for prayer and addresses. Washington's journal shows that he spent the day very much as he did his Sabbaths, in devout worship in the house of God, and religious exercises at home.

In Boston a solemn procession bore along the streets effigies of the men who were promoters of the Act, burying them with appropriate ceremonies. In New York City a similar procession carried the printed Act itself upon a pole, surmounted by a death's head, with a scroll bearing the inscription, "The Folly of England and Ruin of America." Lieutenant-Governor Colden, who had lent his influence to secure the Act, fearing violence, fled to the fort, and garrisoned it with marines from a ship of war. "The mob broke into his stable, drew out his chariot, put his effigy into it, paraded it through the streets to the Common (now the Park), where they hung it on a gallows. In the evening it was taken down, put again into the chariot, with the devil for a companion, and escorted back by torchlight to the bowling green, where the whole pageant, chariot and all, was burnt under the very guns of the [313]fort."

The day on which the Boston Port Bill went into effect was also set apart as a day of fasting, and similar demonstrations were made throughout the Colonies.

It is necessary to turn aside at this point to speak of Washington's visit to Ohio in the interest of his officers and soldiers. It will be remembered that the Governor of Virginia pledged the Virginia troops led by Washington to the Ohio, two hundred thousand acres of the best land in that region. Years passed by, and this pledge was not redeemed. The British ministry opposed redeeming the pledge. But Washington did not forget the claim of his old associates in the hardships and perils of war. He took the matter in hand, and seized upon an opportune moment to carry out his purpose. He even performed a journey to the Ohio to select the best land possible for his deserving comrades. The opportune moment he chose for his journey is described as follows by Irving:

"The Six Nations, by a treaty in 1768, had ceded to the British Crown, in consideration of a sum of money, all the lands possessed by them south of the Ohio. Land offices would soon be opened for the sale of them. Squatters and speculators were already preparing to swarm in, set up their marks on the choicest spots, and establish what were called preemption rights. Washington determined at once to visit the lands thus ceded, affix his mark on such tracts as he should select, and apply for a grant from government, in behalf of the 'soldiers' claim.'"

This expedition was attended by considerable danger, as the Delawares, [314]Shawnees, and Mingees considered that their rights were invaded by the action of the Six Nations. The appearance of white men upon their domains to claim lands was not at all agreeable to them.

In these circumstances Washington undertook the journey, accompanied by his old friend Dr. Craik, and servant, with two servants of his own. All were mounted, with an additional horse to carry the baggage.

They were twelve days on their way to Fort Pitt, where they took a large canoe to descend the Ohio as far as the Great Kanawha. Colonel Croghan, at the fort, engaged two Indians to conduct them thither, and John Nicholson as interpreter.

It was during this trip down the Ohio that Washington enjoyed rare sport. Such herds of deer upon the banks, and flocks of wild turkeys, and such numbers of ducks and geese upon the river, he had never seen before. The canoe was loaded with game.

It was on this trip, also, at the mouth of the Great Kanawha, that Washington met the old sachem "who lay in ambush on the banks of the Monongahela, and wrought such havoc in Braddock's army." The Indian chief came to honor Washington, accompanied with other warriors. After formal introduction, he addressed him thus, through Nicholson the interpreter:

"I am a chief, and the ruler over many tribes. My influence extends to the waters of the great lakes, and to the far blue mountains. I have travelled a long and weary path that I might see the young warrior of the great battle. It was on the day when the white man's blood mixed with the streams of our forest that I first beheld this chief; I called to my young men an[315]d said, "Mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is not of the red-coat tribe: he hath an Indian's wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do; himself is alone exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain and he dies." Our rifles were levelled, rifles which, but for him, knew not how to miss. 'Twas all in vain; a power mightier far than we shielded him from harm. He cannot die in battle. I am old, and soon shall be gathered to the great council-fire of my fathers, in the land of shades; but ere I go, there is a something bids me speak in the voice of prophecy. Listen! The Great Spirit protects that man, and guides his destinies. He will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire!"

Washington successfully accomplished the object of his mission, and in the end his old companions in arms received their just dues. "Fifteen thousand acres were awarded to a field officer, nine thousand to a captain, six thousand to a subaltern, and so on." Stobo and Van Braam, who were with him at Great Meadows, received nine thousand acres apiece. They were in London at the time, and subsequently Washington purchased their claims through his London agent.

How perilous his journey was at the time may be inferred from the fact that soon after his return there was another Indian outbreak on the banks of the Great Kanawha, whither Washington went, and in the engagement Colonel Lewis and other Virginians lost their lives.

The Virginia Assembly was in session when the Boston Port Bill took effect, and the members voted to make the day one of fasting. They voted, also, at that session, to call a Congress of the Colonies. Other legislatures adopted a like measure; and the first American Congress [316]convened in Philadelphia on the 5th of September, 1774. Washington was a member of this body, and took a leading part in addressing an able memorial to the King of Great Britain.

Patrick Henry was asked who was the first man in the American Congress at Philadelphia, and he answered:

"If you speak of eloquence, Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina is by far the greatest orator; but if you speak of solid information and sound judgment, Colonel Washington is unquestionably the greatest man on that floor."

The patriots felt the need of divine guidance in their deliberations, and elected Rev. Mr. Duché of Philadelphia, an Episcopal clergyman, chaplain of Congress. A few mornings thereafter, news came that the enemy was cannonading Boston. It so happened that the Psalter for that day included the following passages:

"Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me. Fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way of them that persecute me. Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation."

The effect upon the Assembly was thrilling. John Adams wrote to his wife about it:

"You must remember this was the morning after we heard the horrible rumor of the cannonade of Boston. I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning.[317]

"After this, Mr. Duché unexpectedly struck out into an extemporaneous prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present. Episcopalian as he is, Dr. Cooper himself never prayed with such fervor, such ardor, such earnestness and pathos, and in language so eloquent and sublime for America, for the Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston."

Most of the members stood during the prayer, but Washington was on his knees.

Lord Chatham was still alive, an old man, feeble and disabled, when that memorial was laid before Parliament, and he "crawled" from his sick room into that body to plead for the American cause. The old orator kindled with patriotic fervor as he rose to defend the cause of the oppressed, and he gave utterance to one of the most eloquent and impassioned appeals ever delivered in Parliament. Our space will allow but a brief extract from it:

"For God's sake then, my lords, let the way be instantly opened for reconciliation; I say instantly, or it will be too late forever. The Americans tell you—and remember it is the language of the whole continent—they tell you they will never submit to be taxed without their own consent. They insist on a repeal of your laws. They do not ask it as a favor: they claim it as a right; they demand it. And I tell you the acts must be repealed; they will be repealed: you cannot enforce them. But bare repeal will not satisfy this enlightened and spirited people. What! satisfy them by repealing a bit of paper? by[318] repealing a piece of parchment? No! you must declare you have no right to tax them; then they may trust you, then they will confide in you. There are, my lords, three millions of Whigs in America. Three millions of Whigs, with arms in their hands, are a formidable body! There are, I trust, double that number of Whigs in England; and I hope the Whigs in both countries will join and make a common cause. They are united by the strongest ties of sentiment and interest, and will therefore, I hope, fly to support their brethren. In this most alarming and distracted state of our affairs, though borne down by a cruel disease, I have crawled to this house, my lords, to give you my best advice, which is, to beseech his Majesty that orders may instantly be despatched to General Gage to remove the troops from Boston; their presence is a source of perpetual irritation and suspicion to those people. How can they trust you with the bayonet at their breasts? They have all the reason in the world to believe that you mean their death or slavery. Let us then set to this business in earnest. There is no time to be lost: every moment is big with danger. Nay, while I am now speaking, the decisive blow may be struck, and millions involved in the dreadful consequences! The very first drop of blood that is drawn will make a wound perhaps never to be healed—a wound of such rancorous malignity, as will, in all probability, mortify the whole body, and hasten, both on England and America, that dissolution to which all nations are destined....

"My lord, if the ministers thus persevere in misadvising the king, he will be undone. He may, indeed, still wear his crown, but the American jewel out of it, it will not be worth the wearing."


Although Chatham was supported by Lord Camden, Lord Shelburne, and the Marquis of Rockingham, his motion was rejected by a large majority, and nearly seven thousand more troops were forwarded to Boston as soon as possible.

Mr. Weems states, what we should have mentioned before, that when England resolved to enforce the tax on tea, and sent a fleet of vessels loaded with the article to Boston, and other American ports, in order to test the matter, Lord Fairfax called upon Washington at his home.

"A letter from my agent," said Washington, "announces that several vessels with cargoes of gunpowder tea are about to set sail to this country. Parliament is determined to tax our tea."

"Why do you call it gunpowder tea?" asked Fairfax.

"Why, I am afraid, my lord," replied Washington, "it will prove inflammable, and produce an explosion that will shake both countries."

His prediction was fulfilled, showing that he took in the situation, with that sagacity for which he was renowned.

General Gage was in command of the royal forces in Boston. When the Port Bill went into operation, he removed the Legislature to Salem. But such was the indignation of the Colonists that, when the time of opening its session arrived, he did not dare to proceed thither. The members assembled, however, and, after waiting in vain for General Gage, they adjourned to Concord, where, immediately, the patriots began to collect arms, ammunition, and other supplies for war.


The military force of General Gage in Boston was increased to such an extent that he soon exhausted his supplies. For relief, he sent out small foraging parties secretly, to seize and appropriate whatever they could lay their hands upon. Hearing that there was a magazine of supplies at Concord, on the night of April 18, 1775, he sent out eight hundred picked men, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, to destroy it. By some means Dr. Warren of Boston learned of General Gage's intentions, and, by a previously concerted signal, gave the alarm. A light in the steeple of the Old North Church was the signal to certain patriots that the people must be called to arms.

A courier on horseback dashed away from Charlestown, at breakneck speed, to give the alarm to the sleeping inhabitants of villages between that place and Concord. At the top of his voice he cried, to startle the minute-men from their beds, "The regulars are coming!"

Certain leading patriots on the way must be aroused and told the story of their danger. So, with a furious pound upon their door, and the wild cry, "The regulars are coming!" the heroic patriots were routed from their beds.

At Lexington Mrs. Harrington, a brave and trusty heroine, heard the midnight cry, and she sprang from her bed, ran to the chamber door, and shouted to her son, who was a minute-man, "John, get up! The regulars are coming!"

By the time day-light began to dawn, the minute-men were in arms, and the whole region round about was fired with the courage and enthusiasm of men resolved to be free or die. When the British troops reached Lexington at five o'clock on the morning of April 19, they found a hundred minute-men drawn up in battle array. Major Pitcairn rode up [321]to them, and shouted:

"Disperse, you rebels! Throw down your arms and disperse!"

His order was followed by a volley of musketry right into the faces of the Lexington soldiers, killing four and wounding several others. The minute-men dispersed, and the British troops hurried on to Concord. Here they met with an unexpectedly hot reception by several hundred minute-men, who had come through the darkness to defend their supplies and the town. Every hour their number increased by the accession of heroes, who came from even twenty miles away to meet the foe.

The British commander was forced to order a retreat, in which his army suffered even more than it did in the battle. The minute-men, from behind trees, houses, barns, and stone walls, picked off the red-coats, so that when the invaders reached Lexington, on their retreat, they were exhausted, depleted, and disheartened. But for the arrival of reinforcements under Lord Percy, the Yankees would have killed or captured Colonel Smith and all his force.

Notwithstanding Colonel Smith was reinforced by "sixteen companies of foot, a corps of marines, and two pieces of artillery," the retreat was continued. All the way from Lexington to Boston, minute-men, who lived remote from the route, and heard the startling news too late to hurry to Concord, annoyed the retreating army by pouring the contents of their muskets into their ranks from covert places where they concealed themselves for bloody work. When the British reached Charlestown, they had sustained a loss of sixty-five killed, one hundred and eighty wounded, and twenty-eight prisoners. The Americans lost fifty killed and thirty-four wounded.


That was the opening of the Revolutionary War, in which independence was achieved. On that nineteenth day of April, 1775, was fired the first gun which, John Adams said, "was heard around the world." From that moment Americans armed themselves, and an army of defence was hastily rallied at Cambridge. The Assembly of Massachusetts was in session at the time, and voted to raise thirteen thousand men in the Colony, and ask the other New England Colonies to increase the number to thirty thousand. There was scarcely any need of such action by the Legislature, however, for the patriotism of the people was unbounded. The Concord fight obliterated the last vestige of apathy, and drew forth a spirit of heroism before unknown. From every quarter men rushed to arms voluntarily, ready to sacrifice even life in the common cause. As an example of the unparalleled devotion to the country, Israel Putnam of Connecticut was ploughing in the field when the news of the Concord fight reached him. Without stopping to go to his house, he jumped upon the back of his horse, instructed his son to carry the intelligence to his mother, and galloped away to join the troops at Cambridge. With such courage and patriotism Americans rallied for the defense of the country, coming even from the most distant hamlets of New England.

The second American Congress met in Philadelphia about four weeks after the battle of Concord. Washington was in his seat promptly, wrought up to the highest pitch of determination in the cause of liberty. He had just come from a convention in Virginia, in which Patrick Henry stirred the hearts of all true patriots by one of his indescribable harangues for the American cause, in which he closed with the memorable words:

"We must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!"


In that deep and solemn conviction Washington met his associates in the second Congress at Philadelphia. What were his opinions regarding the situation at that time may be learned from his familiar conversation with John Adams:

"The decisive blow is struck," remarked Adams; "the Concord fight has made our duty plain."

"It could not possibly be made plainer," replied Washington, "and the Concord fight must convince our oppressors that Americans will never yield to their domination."

"You are right in that view, Colonel Washington; the spirit of hostility to tyranny is grander than I dreamed of. It augurs well for the future."

"There is no alternative left to the Colonies," continued Washington; "the army of Great Britain has deliberately attacked us. The work of this Congress should be to create an army, and provide for defence."

"In the most liberal manner, too, for that only is patriotic," added Adams. "When Parliament resorts to belligerent measures against the remonstrances of Chatham, Burke, Barré, Pitt, and other worthies, we are justified in putting the worst construction upon their intentions."

"Nothing can be more obvious," responded Washington. "And the British troops must be expelled from Boston by force, or our American Colonies are reduced to a condition of vassalage. The army that precipitated the attack at Concord must be paid for the effrontery, or we are slaves."

"Without appealing again to the king?"


"Yes, without appealing again to his Majesty. Our appeals have been spurned. Our entreaties have been interpreted as the pleas of cowardice. Our patience has been regarded as pusillanimity. Because British oppression has been met by respectful remonstrance instead of indignant denunciation, it has appealed to arms; and that appeal must be promptly met by warlike preparations and the challenge to battle."

The second American Congress did send another appeal to the king, though not with the vote of Washington. It was an able, patriotic paper, setting forth the grievances of the Colonists in language that would have moved the hearts of friends to pity. At the same time, however, the members voted to put the Colonies upon a war basis. Many independent military companies had been organized in the Colonies within a few months; and these, by vote, were constituted the Continental Army, in connection with others to be raised. Three millions of dollars were appropriated for supplying arms and stores, and five hundred dollars a month for the salary of a commander-in-chief, to be elected.

The provincial army around Boston was gathered entirely from the New England Colonies, and was wholly without organization or discipline, a motley multitude of men, who left their homes and rushed to camp upon the impulse of patriotic sentiments. John Adams moved that Congress adopt that army, provide for its support, and elect for it a suitable commander. His speech on the occasion pointed so plainly to Washington as the man of all others for commander-in-chief, that the latter gentleman rose from his seat and left the hall. On the following day Washington was unanimously elected commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, a very unexpected honor to him.

With much diffidence, and his usual modesty, he arose in his seat to [325]accept the appointment, and said:

"Though I am truly sensible of the high honor done me in this appointment, yet I feel great distress, from a consciousness that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust. However, as the Congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous duty, and exert every power I possess in their service, and for the support of the glorious cause. I beg they will accept my most cordial thanks for this distinguished testimony of their approbation.

"But lest some unlucky event should happen, unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare, with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.

"As to pay, sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress, that, as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept this arduous employment at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses; these, I doubt not, they will discharge, and that is all I desire."

His acceptance was received with enthusiastic applause, followed by a resolution, declaring that "they would maintain and assist him and adhere to him with their lives and fortunes in the same cause."

The same Congress appointed Artemas Ward, Charles Lee, Philip Schuyler, and Israel Putnam major-generals; and Seth Pomeroy, Richard Montgomery, David Wooster, William Heath, Joseph Spencer, John Thomas, John [326]Sullivan, and Nathaniel Greene brigadier-generals. Horatio Gates was appointed adjutant-general. These appointments were made with Washington's acquiescence, if not at his suggestion.

John Adams wrote to a friend: "There is something charming to me in the conduct of Washington; a gentleman of the first fortunes on the continent, leaving his delicious retirement, his family and friends, sacrificing his ease, and hazarding all in the cause of his country. His views are noble and disinterested. He declared, when he accepted the mighty trust, that he would lay before us an exact account of his expenses, and not accept a shilling pay."


"There is no time to lose," remarked Adams to Washington. "Letters to me from Generals Warren and Ward insist that the undisciplined army cannot be kept together much longer without the aid of Congress; and Congress has done the best thing it could for the army in appointing you to its command."

"I shall lose no time in preparations to take command of the army," replied Washington. "I shall repair to Cambridge at once."

"Without returning to Mount Vernon?"


"Yes; that would consume too much time. Much as I should enjoy a visit home, I must forego the pleasure, and hasten to my command."

"A sacrifice, truly," remarked Adams.

"And one that both my wife and mother will appreciate," added Washington, "although the disappointment will be so great to them. Our country first, for the sake of our homes."

"True, very true; and it is a terrible necessity that makes it true," continued Adams. "War is serious business, and under its direful necessities you may never see your loved Mount Vernon again."

"No one can be more sensible of that than myself, but personal pleasure must yield to the demands of patriotism in such a crisis as this. Duty is the watchword now."

Without consuming time for more than the most hasty preparation, Washington started for Massachusetts, after penning the following tender letter to his wife. The epistle shows so much of his noble character that our narrative would be incomplete without it:

Philadelphia, June 18, 1775.

My Dearest,—I am now set down to write you on a subject which fills me with inexpressible concern; and this concern is greatly aggravated and increased when I reflect upon the uneasiness I know it will give you. It has been determined in Congress that the whole army raised for the defence of the American cause shall be put under my care, and that it is necessary for me to [328]proceed immediately to Boston to take upon me the command of it.

You may believe me, my dear Patsy, when I assure you in the most solemn manner, that, so far from seeking this appointment, I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it, not only from my unwillingness to part with you and the family, but from a consciousness of its being a trust too great for my capacity, and that I should enjoy more real happiness in one month with you at home than I have the most distant prospect of finding abroad, if my stay were to be seven times seven years. But as it has been a kind of destiny that has thrown me upon this service, I shall hope that my undertaking it is designed to answer some good purpose. You might, and I suppose did, perceive, from the tenor of my letters, that I was apprehensive I could not avoid this appointment, as I did not pretend to intimate when I should return. That was the case. It was utterly out of my power to refuse this appointment without exposing my character to such censures as would have reflected dishonor upon myself and given pain to my friends. This I am sure could not, and ought not, to be pleasing to you, and must have lessened me considerably in my own esteem. I shall rely, therefore, confidently on that Providence which has heretofore preserved and been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you in the fall. I shall feel no pain from the toil or the danger of the campaign; my unhappiness will flow from the uneasiness I know you will feel from being left alone. I therefore beg that you will summon your whole fortitude, and pass your time as agreeably as possible. Nothing will give me so much sincere satisfaction as to hear this, and to hear it from your own pen. My earnest and ardent desire is, that you would pursue any plan that is most likely to produce content and a [329]tolerable degree of tranquility; and it must add greatly to my uneasy feelings to hear that you are dissatisfied or complaining at what I really could not avoid.

As life is always uncertain, and common prudence dictates to every man the necessity of settling his temporal concerns while it is in his power, and while the mind is calm and undisturbed, I have, since I came to this place (for I had not time to do it before I left home), got Colonel Pendleton to draft a will for me, by the directions I gave him, which will I now enclose. The provisions made for you in case of my death will, I hope, be agreeable. I shall add nothing more, as I have several letters to write, but to desire that you will remember me to your friends, and to assure you that I am, with the most unfeigned regard, my dear Patsy,

Your affectionate husband.

The preparation of his will is expressive of his thoughts and feelings at the time, and it magnifies, also, the sacrifice he was making for his country.

It will be noticed that the letter to his wife is dated June 18, the day after the battle of Bunker Hill. He knew nothing of that battle, of course; and the fact shows all the more how rapidly public affairs were hastening to a crisis.

It was the 23d of June when he left Philadelphia, and just before leaving he addressed another brief letter to his wife, that furnishes a key to his heart:


Philadelphia, June 23, 1775.

My Dearest,—As I am within a few minutes of leaving this city, I could not think of departing from it without dropping you a line, especially as I do not know whether it will be in my power to write again until I get to the camp at Boston. I go fully trusting in that Providence which has been more bountiful to me than I deserve, and in full confidence of a happy meeting with you in the fall. I have not time to add more, as I am surrounded by company to take leave of me. I retain an unalterable affection for you, which neither time nor distance can change. My best love to Jack and Nelly, and regards to the rest of the family, concludes me, with the utmost sincerity,

Your entire
Geo. Washington.

Two thousand troops had gathered in Philadelphia, and he reviewed them before leaving. The whole two thousand escorted him out of the city, and a company of light-horse escorted him to New York, together with Generals Lee and Schuyler.

Twenty miles from Philadelphia he was met by a courier on horseback, bringing particulars of the battle of Bunker Hill.

"How many Americans were engaged in it?" Washington inquired.

"About twelve hundred only."

"Who led them?"


"General Prescott."

"How many were killed?"

"About four hundred and fifty were killed and wounded. The British lost more than half of their men."

"What officers fell?"

"The brave General Warren was one."

"Did the men fight well?"

"Never braver men met a foe."

"Then the liberties of our country are safe," added Washington.

As grand a welcome as could possibly be given, without the burning of powder, was tendered by the Provincial Assembly of New York and New Jersey. They could burn no powder because the Colony possessed but four barrels, having forwarded a thousand barrels to Cambridge for the use of the army.

Washington left General Schuyler in command at New York and hastened forward to Cambridge, for at New York he received a more detailed account of the battle of Bunker Hill. This information caused him to hasten his journey; and he reached Watertown, where the Legislature was sitting, on the second day of July. That body gave him an enthusiastic welcome, and presented a lengthy address to him, in which they spread out the deplorable condition of the army, pledging their prompt aid in [332]its organization and discipline.

On the third day of July he was escorted by an imposing cavalcade to Cambridge, four miles distant, to take immediate command of the army. Notwithstanding the scarcity of powder, his arrival was announced by salvos of artillery; and the sight of him, in his splendid bearing, drew from the admiring thousands the heartiest cheers. The general of whom they had heard so much even more than met their expectations, and their joy knew no bounds.

Washington wheeled his noble charger under the shadow of the "Great Elm," where he formally took command of the Continental Army, thereby making the tree historic to this day. He was forty-three years of age at that time.

Mrs. John Adams was in Cambridge when Washington arrived, and she wrote of him as follows:

"Dignity, ease, and complacency, the gentleman and the soldier look, agreeably blended in him. Modesty marks every line and feature of his face. These lines of Dryden instantly occurred to me:

"'Mark his majestic fabric! He's a temple
Sacred by birth, and built by hands divine;
His soul's the deity that lodges there,
Nor is the pile unworthy of the God.'"

Washington found General Artemas Ward in command, who informed him that, "We have fourteen thousand five hundred men, including the sick."


"How many troops of the king hold Boston?" Washington inquired.

"About eleven thousand of the best disciplined troops that England could send over."

"And how many inhabitants of Boston are there in the city now?"

"Seventeen thousand; and it is said that they are treated as rebels, except the Tories, who support the cause of the Crown. General Gage is in command, and Generals Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne arrived with their last reinforcements."

"Gage was with me twenty years ago in the expedition against Duquesne," said Washington. "Generals Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne are the best generals the king can send, I suppose."

"I judge so. At any rate this army is a mob compared to the royal army in Boston. Very few of them were ever in the service before. They know nothing about order and discipline, and care as little."

"They must learn both as quickly as possible," responded Washington. "An army without discipline can be little more than a mob. My first step will be to bring the army under rigid military discipline."

Washington, accompanied by General Lee, took immediate measures to acquaint himself with the condition of the army, and in an incredibly short time had it distributed thus: The right wing was stationed on the heights of Roxbury, under the command of Major-General Ward; the left wing was stationed on Winter and Prospect Hills, in what is now the city of Somerville, under command of Major-General Lee; while the [334]centre, under Major-General Putnam, occupied Cambridge. The army was thus distributed over a line of some twelve miles in length.

The army was destitute of clothing, ammunition, and nearly everything for its comfort. The mass of them were dressed as they were clad when they left their farms and work-shops, a dirty, ragged collection of armed men, though resolute and brave. Their cry against the king's troops in Boston was:

"Shut them up! Starve them out! Drive them into their ships, and send their ships out to sea!"

To add to the disheartening situation, Charlestown lay in ashes, having been set on fire by the enemy's shells at the battle of Bunker Hill; there were no well-constructed works throughout the whole line of fortifications; insubordination was popular among the troops, who called it independence; and still worse, jealousies prevailed among the troops of different Colonies.

The larger part of the army, nearly ten thousand, belonged to Massachusetts, and they were in the worst plight of all. Washington made the following magnanimous apology for them:

"This unhappy and devoted province has been so long in a state of anarchy, and the yoke has been laid so heavily on it, that great allowances are to be made for troops raised under such circumstances. The deficiency of members, discipline, and stores can only lead to this conclusion: that their spirit has exceeded their strength."

A British officer wrote home:[335]

"The rebel army are in so wretched a condition as to clothing and accoutrements, that I believe no nation ever saw such a set of tatterdemalions. There are few coats among them but what are out at elbows, and in a whole regiment there is scarce a whole pair of breeches."

Nevertheless, the material for an army in such a crisis was good. The famous General Nathaniel Greene of Rhode Island organized three regiments in that province after the Concord fight, and he was there with his men, "the best disciplined and appointed troops in the army." Connecticut also raised a respectable force, and put them under the command of General Israel Putnam, who left his plough in the furrow, and galloped off to Boston; and they were there. The brave Colonel Stark of New Hampshire, with his "Green Mountain boys," was there also. Other officers of ability were doing all they could with an undisciplined army, while the rank and file were eager to drive the foe out of Boston. A leader like Washington was needed to organize and manipulate this rough mass of material. A chief like him, too, was indispensable to elevate their moral condition; for drunkenness, revelry, lewdness, profanity, gambling, not to mention other evils, abounded.

The following was Washington's first order to the army:

"The Continental Congress having now taken all the troops of the several Colonies which have been raised, or which may be hereafter raised, for the support and defence of the liberties of America, into their pay and service, they are now the troops of the United Provinces of North America; and it is hoped that all distinctions of Colonies will be laid aside, so that one an[336]d the same spirit may animate the whole, and the only contest be, who shall render, on this great and trying occasion, the most essential service to the great and common cause in which we are all engaged. It is required and expected that exact discipline be observed, and due subordination prevail, through the whole army, as a failure in these most essential points must necessarily produce extreme hazard, disorder, and confusion, and end in shameful disappointment and disgrace. The general most earnestly requires and expects a due observance of those articles of war established for the government of the army, which forbid profane cursing, swearing, and drunkenness. And in like manner he requires and expects of all officers and soldiers, not engaged on actual duty, a punctual attendance on divine service, to implore the blessing of Heaven upon the means used for our safety and defence."

Rev. William Emerson was a chaplain in the army, and he wrote as follows of the wonderful change Washington wrought in a short time:

"There is great overturning in the camp as to order and regularity. New lords, new laws. The Generals Washington and Lee are upon the lines every day. New orders from his Excellency are read to the respective regiments every morning after prayers. The strictest government is taking place, and great distinction is made between officers and soldiers.

"Every one is made to know his place and keep in it, or be tied up and receive thirty or forty lashes, according to his crime. Thousands are at work every day from four to eleven o'clock in the morning. It is surprising how much work has been done. The lines are extended almost from Cambridge to Mystic River, s[337]o that very soon it will be morally impossible for the enemy to get between the works, except in one place, which is supposed to be left purposely unfortified to entice the enemy out of their fortresses."

"The British army in Boston understand their business," remarked Washington to his secretary, Mr. Reed. "Their works are thoroughly constructed, and they seem to be provided with every thing that war requires." At that time he had reconnoitered until he had acquired quite a thorough knowledge of their defences.

"King George would not be likely to send over others," answered Reed. "He is too anxious to awe his rebellious subjects into submission to pursue another course."

"Well, they are in close quarters now," continued Washington, "although, if they understood our weakness, they might fight their way out, and annihilate the American army. I have just discovered that all the powder in the camp will not furnish the soldiers nine cartridges apiece."

"No more?" exclaimed Reed. "You surprise me!"

"You cannot be more surprised than I am. It is a fearful condition for this army to be in."

"How can it be so?" added Reed, still more surprised. "According to that, powder is scarcer than clothing."

"It is true, if my investigation does not mislead," responded Washington. "No army was ever in a condition so deplorable; and I would [338]not dare to let my soldiers know the actual state of things, lest they become demoralized."

"Fortunate for us that so far they are in blissful ignorance of our condition," said Reed; "but this state of affairs must not be suffered to continue."

"Certainly not; I shall take immediate measures to remedy the evil."

And he did. Agents were sent in different directions to procure ammunition. A vessel was sent to the Bermudas for this purpose. Expeditions to capture British forts in this country and Canada were set on foot. The manufacture of powder was recommended by Congress.

At that time, the transportation of supplies for an army was a slow and tedious work. There were no railroads, and the facilities for transportation by horses and cattle were far inferior to those of the present day. For example, a little later, Henry Knox, who was a thriving book-seller in Boston when the British took possession of the city, and who fought bravely at Bunker Hill, was sent to Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which the Americans had captured, to bring such artillery and ordnance stores as could be spared. He was instructed, also, to proceed to St. John and Montreal, both of which had just been captured by American expeditions under Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen, Generals Schuyler and Montgomery. It was in the depth of winter when Knox returned with over fifty cannon, mortars, and howitzers, and a quantity of lead and flints, loaded upon forty sleds, drawn by eighty yoke of cattle. Washington procured for Knox the commission of colonel soon after he undertook the enterprise.

Washington's headquarters were established at the Cragie House, a [339]spacious building, favorably situated for the commander-in-chief. For many years it was owned by Professor Longfellow the poet, who died there some years since.

Order, sobriety, and religion regulated his headquarters. Morning and evening prayers were scrupulously maintained, and the whole appearance of the place indicated that the renowned occupant was a Christian.

Washington required the chaplains of all his regiments to conduct prayers morning and evening, and religious services on the Sabbath. The officers were required to see that their men attended all these services, since they were observed "for their good."

Early in the siege of Boston, when he felt that "if success ever crowns the American cause, it will be because an All-wise Providence controls the affairs of men," Washington advised the appointment of a day of fasting and prayer, to intercede for the blessing of God upon the little army at Cambridge. Congress appointed the day, and the commander-in-chief required its observance throughout the army. Religious services were held, all business suspended, and the day was made as quiet and religious as Sunday.

One of the earliest arrivals at the camp in Cambridge, after Washington took command, was from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, fourteen hundred sharp-shooters, as we should call them now. They were tall, stalwart men, dressed in fringed hunting shirts and round caps. They were received in camp with the wildest demonstrations of joy. A few weeks later a long, lumbering train of wagons, laden with military stores captured on the sea, came into camp. Washington had been forced to send out cruisers, by the action of General Gage in arming vessels to [340]capture supplies along the American coast. One of his cruisers captured a brigantine ladened with munitions of war,—two thousand stand of arms, one hundred thousand flints, thirty thousand round shot, and thirty-two tons musket balls,—which were taken into Cape Ann, and transported from thence on wagons to Cambridge.

In this way, as well as by the action of Congress and the Provincial Legislatures, the army of Washington was strengthened and equipped. The British were so thoroughly entrenched in Boston, and their army so well disciplined and powerful, that it would have been foolhardy for Washington to attack them; besides, an attack would have resulted in burning the city and sacrificing the lives of many friends who lived there.

"British officers must understand that men fighting for their country are patriots, and not malefactors," remarked Washington to Mr. Reed, his secretary. "Cruelty to prisoners anyway is contrary to all the rules of civilized warfare."

"Well, we are 'rebels,' you know," replied Reed sarcastically, "and General Gage thinks that 'rebels' have no claim upon his clemency."

"Cruelty to prisoners is not confined to General Gage," responded Washington. "There is no doubt that the king holds Allen [Ethan] in irons, and his fellow-captives, which is treating prisoners of war as savages do."

Ethan Allen was the famous patriot who led two hundred and thirty men against Fort Ticonderoga, and captured it in May, 1775. He surprised the commander, and demanded an immediate surrender.


"By whose authority do you make this demand?" inquired the officer in charge.

"In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!" shouted Allen.

He was captured by General Prescott in Canada.

"Were the king's forces in Boston to sally forth and conquer our army, the rules of civilized warfare would be of no account to them, I am thinking;" suggested Mr. Reed. "It behooves us to keep out of their clutches, or die in the attempt."

The cruelty of British officers to prisoners was the subject of frequent discussion between Washington and his advisers, and finally he wrote to General Gage as follows:

"I understand that the officers engaged in the cause of liberty and their country, who, by the fortune of war have fallen into your hands, have been thrown indiscriminately into a common jail, appropriated to felons; that no consideration has been had for those of the most respectable rank, when languishing with wounds and sickness, and that some have been amputated in this unworthy situation.... The obligations arising from the rights of humanity and claims of rank are universally binding and extensive, except in case of retaliation. These, I should have hoped, would have dictated a more tender treatment of those individuals whom chance or war had put in your power.... My duty now makes it necessary to apprise you that, for the future, I shall regulate all my conduct towards those gentlemen who are, [342]or may be, in our possession, exactly by the rule you shall observe toward those of ours now in your custody.

"If severity and hardships mark the line of your conduct, painful as it may be to me, your prisoners will feel its effects. But if kindness and humanity are shown to us, I shall with pleasure consider those in our hands only as unfortunate, and they shall receive from me that treatment to which the unfortunate are ever entitled."

The reply of General Gage was characteristic of a conceited, ambitious, and domineering officer of the king, and Washington closed his reply to it with these words:

"I shall now, sir, close my correspondence with you, perhaps forever. If your officers, our prisoners, receive a treatment from me different from that which I wished to show them, they and you will remember the occasion of it."

Subsequently, Washington ordered British officers at Watertown and Cape Ann, who were at large on parole, to be confined in the jail at Northampton, explaining to them that it was not agreeable to his feelings of humanity, but according to the treatment of Americans whom the officers of the crown held as prisoners. But he could not tolerate even this mild form of retaliation, and therefore in a short time he revoked the order, and the prisoners were at large again.

"I was never more distressed in mind than I am now," remarked Washington to a member of his staff.

"Why so?"


"Within a few days this army will be reduced to less than ten thousand men by the expiration of enlistments," answered Washington; "and when we can ever attack Boston is a problem. For six months I have been waiting for powder, fire-arms, recruits, and what-not; and here we are with the 1st of January, 1776, right upon us, when several thousand soldiers will leave."

"A very discouraging fact indeed," answered the staff officer; "and how will you fill the breach created by their going?"

"That is what troubles me. We shall be forced to require soldiers whose term of enlistment expires, to leave their muskets, allowing them fair compensation for the same. And to encourage their successors to bring arms, we must charge each one of them who fails to bring his gun one dollar for the use of the one we provide."

"A novel way of recruiting and supplying an army, truly," said the staff officer.

"The only way left to us," remarked Washington.

"Yes; and I suppose that any way is better than none."

Washington wrote to a friend on the 4th of January:

"It is easier to conceive than to describe the situation of my mind for some time past and my feelings under our present circumstances. Search the volume of history through, and I much question whether a case similar to ours can be found; namely, t[344]o maintain a post against the power of the British troops for six months together without powder, and then to have one army disbanded and another raised within the same distance (musket shot) of a reinforced enemy.... For two months past I have scarcely emerged from one difficulty before I have been plunged into another. How it will end, God, in His great goodness, will direct. I am thankful for His protection to this time."

A few days later he wrote:

"The reflection of my situation and that of this army produces many an unhappy hour, when all around me are wrapped in sleep. Few people know the predicament we are in on a thousand accounts; fewer still will believe, if any disaster happens to these lines, from what cause it flows. I have often thought how much happier I should have been, if, instead of accepting the command under such circumstances, I had taken my musket on my shoulder and entered the ranks; or, if I could have justified the measure to posterity and my own conscience, had retired to the back country and lived in a wigwam."

Still, through his tact and indomitable perseverance, Washington found his army in a condition to attack Boston in March. He had vainly tried to induce the British troops to leave their comfortable quarters and come out to battle. He had so effectually cut off their supplies by his determined siege that the British Government was compelled to send supplies from home. But now he felt that the time for action had come. He called a council of war.

"Our situation compels action of some kind to save ourselves, even at great risk," he said to his advisers. "There is a cloud over the public [345]mind, and there is danger on the north and on the south. Montgomery has fallen before Quebec, and our little army in Canada is depleted and broken. Tryon and the Tories are plotting mischief in New York, and Dunmore in Virginia. Clinton, too, is making depredations along the coast."

"And what do you propose?" inquired one.

"To attack Boston."

"And take the risk?"

"Yes; and take the risk, which will prove less, I believe, that the risk incurred by continual inaction."

"Do you propose an immediate movement?"

"On the 4th of March, the anniversary of the 'Boston Massacre.' It is a good time to avenge that wrong."

On the 4th of March, 1775, the British troops, who were often insolent and overbearing to the citizens of Boston, were attacked and stoned by indignant parties. A brief contest followed, in which four Americans were killed and several wounded. This was called the "Boston Massacre."

"I hope that your movement will be successful, but it is a hazardous one," suggested one of the council. "An attack all along the line?"

"By no means," answered Washington. "The project is hazardous indeed, but that is inevitable. On the night of March 3 I propose to take [346]possession of Dorchester Heights, throw up breastworks, and by the time the enemy can see the Heights in the morning, be prepared to hold the position."

"And if the whole British army attack us, what then?"

"General Putnam shall have a force of four thousand men on the opposite side of the town, in two divisions, under Generals Sullivan and Greene. At a given signal from Roxbury, they shall embark at the mouth of Charles River, cross under cover of three floating batteries, land in two places in Boston, secure its strong posts, force the gates and works at the neck, and let in the Roxbury troops. This, in case they make a determined attempt to dislodge us."

Washington waited for a reply. The bold plan somewhat perplexed his advisers at first, and there was silence for a moment. At length one spoke, and then another, and still another, until every objection was canvassed. The plan was finally adopted, but kept a profound secret with the officers who were to conduct the enterprise.

We cannot dwell upon details. Agreeable to Washington's arrangement, when the expedition with tools, arms, supplies, and other necessaries was ready to move on the evening of March 3, a terrible cannonading of the British by the American army, at two different points, commenced, under the cover of which our troops reached Dorchester Heights without attracting the attention of the enemy. The reader may judge of the cannonading by the words of Mrs. John Adams, who wrote to her husband thus:

"I have just returned from Penn's Hill, where I have been sitting to hear the amazing roar of cannon, and from whence [347]I could see every shell that was thrown. The sound, I think, is one of the grandest in nature, and is of the true species of the sublime. It is now an incessant roar.

"I went to bed about twelve, and rose again a little after one. I could no more sleep than if I had been in the engagement; the rattling of the windows, the jar of the house, the continual roar of twenty-four pounders, and the bursting of shells, give us such ideas, and realize a scene to us of which we could scarcely form any conception. I hope to give you joy of Boston, even if it is in ruins, before I send this away."

What the British beheld on the morning of March 4, to their surprise and alarm, is best told in the words of one of their officers.

"This morning at daybreak we discovered two redoubts on Dorchester Point, and two smaller ones on their flanks. They were all raised during last night, with an expedition equal to that of 'the genii' belonging to Alladin's wonderful lamp. From these hills they command the whole town, so that we must drive them from their post or desert the place."

The British general, Howe, exclaimed:

"The rebels have done more work in one night than my whole army would have done in a month."

General Howe had superseded General Gage some time before this exploit.

Quickly as possible, General Howe began to bombard the new fortifications on Dorchester Heights. All through the day he cannonaded [348]the little American army, and, under the cover of the bombardment, prepared to land twenty-five hundred picked men at night, and carry the Heights by storm. His guns did little damage, however, through the day. Washington was present in person, encouraging the soldiers, and directing them in strengthening the fortifications.

Under the darkness of night General Howe sent twenty-five hundred of his best soldiers, in transports, to capture the "rebel works." But a furious northeast storm arose, and beat upon them with such violence that it was impossible to land. They were compelled to postpone the attack until the next night. But the storm continued, and even increased. The wind blew a gale and the rain descended in torrents all through the following day and night, shutting up the enemy within their own quarters, and allowing the Americans time to multiply their works and render them impregnable.

When the storm ceased, an English officer declared that the Americans were invincible in their strong position. That General Howe was of the same opinion is evident from the fact that he decided to evacuate Boston.

Had General Howe been able to land his troops on the first night, as he planned, there is little doubt that Washington would have been driven from the Heights as the Americans were driven from Bunker Hill, so that the intervention of the storm seemed peculiarly providential. When Washington issued his order, months before, for the strict observance of the Sabbath and daily religious service by the army, General Lee, who was a godless scoffer, remarked, derisively, "God is on the side of the heaviest battalions."

But in this case the storm favored the weakest battalions.


General Howe conferred with the authorities of Boston, and promised to evacuate the city without inflicting harm upon it if the Americans would not attack him. Otherwise he would commit the city to the flames, and leave under cover of the mighty conflagration. Washington wrote to him:

"If you will evacuate the city without plundering or doing any harm, I will not open fire upon you. But if you make any attempt to plunder, or if the torch is applied to a single building, I will open upon you the most deadly bombardment."

Howe promised: yet such was the disposition of the British soldiers to acts of violence, that he was obliged to issue an order that soldiers found plundering should be hanged on the spot; and he had an officer, with a company of soldiers and a hangman, march through the streets, ready to execute his order.

It was not, however, until the 17th of March that the embarkation of the British army commenced. About twelve thousand soldiers and refugees embarked in seventy-eight vessels. The refugees were Americans who favored the British cause (called Tories), and they did not dare to remain in this country. Washington wrote about these refugees:

"By all accounts there never existed a more miserable set of beings than those wretched creatures now are. Taught to believe that the power of Great Britain was superior to all opposition, and that foreign aid was at hand, they were even higher and more insulting in their opposition than the regulars. When the order was issued, therefore, for embarking the troops in Boston, no electric shock, no sudden clap of thunder, in a word[350], the last trump, could not have struck them with greater consternation. They were at their wits' end; chose to commit themselves, in the manner I have above described, to the mercy of the waves at a tempestuous season, rather than meet their offended countrymen."

With exceeding joy Washington beheld the "precipitate retreat" of the British army from Boston, but fired not a gun. One of General Howe's officers wrote afterwards:

"It was lucky for the inhabitants now left in Boston that they did not, for I am informed that everything was prepared to set the town in a blaze had they fired one cannon."

We have intentionally passed over several incidents, with the rehearsal of which we will bring this chapter to a close.

When Washington assumed the command of the American army, he left his Mount Vernon estate in charge of Mr. Lund Washington, continuing to direct its management by correspondence. He expected to return to his home in the autumn, and so encouraged his wife to believe. But in this he was sorely disappointed. His thoughtful and benevolent character appears in one of his early letters to his agent:

"Let the hospitality of the house with respect to the poor be kept up. Let no one go hungry away. If any of this kind of people should be in want of corn, supply their necessaries, provided it does not encourage them to idleness; and I have no objection to your giving my money in charity to the amount of forty or fifty pounds a year, when you think it is well bestowed. What I mean by having no objection is, that it is my[351] desire that it should be done."

Many Americans feared that the enemy might send a war vessel up the Potomac and destroy the Mount Vernon residence and capture Mrs. Washington. She was earnestly advised to leave, and repair to a place of safety beyond the Blue Ridge. But Washington sent for her to come to him at Cambridge.

She was four weeks travelling from Mount Vernon to Cambridge. She performed the journey in her own carriage, a chariot drawn by four fine horses, with black postilions in scarlet and white liveries. This was an English style of equipage, and the public sentiment of that day demanded that the commander-in-chief should adopt it. She was accompanied by her son, and was escorted from place to place by guards of honor. Her arrival in Cambridge was the signal for great rejoicing. The army received her with the honors due to her illustrious husband.

She immediately took charge of Washington's headquarters, and soon became as popular in the domestic and social circle as her husband was in camp and field. It was at Cambridge that she was first called "Lady Washington."

As an illustration of Washington's rigid discipline, an incident is related of his manner of suppressing a disturbance. It was during the winter he was besieging Boston.

A party of Virginia riflemen met a party of Marblehead fishermen. The dress of the fishermen was as singular to the riflemen as that of the riflemen was to the fishermen, and they began to banter each other. Snow-balls soon began to fly back and forth, and finally hard blows were [352]interchanged. A melee occurred, in which a thousand soldiers participated.

Hearing of the disturbance, Washington hastened to the scene, and, leaping from his horse, he seized two burly Virginians by the neck, and held them out at arm's length, at the same time administering a rebuke in words that scattered the combatants as suddenly as a cannonade would have done.

The British army committed many depredations in Boston during the year they held possession of it. They tore out the pulpit and pews of the Old South Church, and converted it into a riding-school for General Burgoyne's light-horse regiment. They took down the North Church and used it for fuel. They used up about three hundred wooden houses in the same way.

In the winter a theatre was established for the entertainment of the British soldiers. At one time a British officer wrote a farce entitled, "The Blockade of Boston," to be played on a given evening. It was a burlesque upon Washington and the American army. It represented the commander-in-chief of the American army as an awkward lout, equipped with a huge wig, and a long, rusty sword, attended by a country booby as orderly sergeant, in a rustic garb, with an old fire-lock seven or eight feet long.

The theatre was filled to overflowing on the night the farce was announced. It happened that, on the same night, General Putnam sent a party of two hundred men to surprise and capture a British guard stationed at Charlestown. His daring exploit was successful, though his men were fired upon by the garrison of the fort. The thunder of artillery caused a British officer to believe that the Yankees were in [353]motion, and he rushed into the theatre, crying, "The Yankees are attacking Bunker Hill!"

At first the audience supposed that this announcement was part of the play. But General Howe, who was present, undeceived them by calling out, "Officers, to your alarm posts!"

The farce turned out to be tragedy, and the curtain fell upon the scene. The audience scattered like a flock of sheep.

The failure of the British to hold Boston was extremely mortifying to General Howe and the English Government. When the king's regiments first took possession of the city, one of the officers wrote home:

"Whenever it comes to blows, he that can run the fastest will think himself well off, believe me. Any two regiments here ought to be decimated if they did not beat in the field the whole force of the Massachusetts Province."

General Gage said to the king, before leaving England to take command of the forces in Boston, "The Americans will be lions so long as the English are lambs. Give me five regiments and I will keep Boston quiet."

When General Burgoyne was sailing into Boston Harbor to join his king's army, and his attention was called to the fact that a few thousand undisciplined "rebels" were besieging a town garrisoned by five or six thousand British regulars, he exclaimed in derision:


"What! ten thousand peasants keep five thousand king's troops shut up? Well, let us get in and we'll soon find elbow-room."

He failed to find "elbow room" until he put out to sea.

To be driven out of Boston, when such a result was considered impossible by the foe, was doubly humiliating to the sons of Great Britain. It was proportionably glorious to American patriots, and they took possession of the city with exultation and devout thanksgivings to God.

Congress unanimously adopted a eulogistic resolution, rehearsing the valor and achievements of the commander-in-chief, and ordered a gold medal, with appropriate inscription, to be struck off, and presented to him as a token of the country's gratitude.


"What next?" inquired General Putnam.

"That is a difficult question to answer until I know General Howe's destination," replied Washington.

"Then you don't think he is going home?" continued Putnam facetiously.

"Not yet, though I wish he might; then I would go home, too."

"But seriously, where do you think he is going?" urged Putnam.


"I fear that he is bound to New York, for that is a port more important to him than even Boston." Washington spoke as if he were greatly perplexed.

"Well," added Putnam in his resolute way, "if he is bound for New York it won't do for us to be fooling about here long."

"No; and if I were certain that his destination were there, I should put you in command of that post at once," said Washington. "Besides the importance of the position to him, the large number of Tories in that town is a great inducement for him to strike there. Governor Tryon has been plotting something with them, and who knows but his appearance there will be the signal for them to rise against their own country."

"Just like 'em," answered Putnam. "A man who will turn against his own country ought to dangle at the end of a halter. With the British army outside, and hundreds of traitors inside, New York will make a poor show."

"There is no telling what a strong defence of the town can be made with the Lord on our side. My hope is in the righteousness of our cause."

Washington called a council of war in his perplexity. He laid before his military advisers his reasons for supposing that the foe, driven from Boston, had sailed for New York.

"The English will be chagrined over their defeat here, after all their boasting," said Washington, "and we may expect heavier blows in future somewhere. The king will not suffer 'rebels' to remain unmolested. We do [356]well to expect that in future the king will concentrate the military power of his government and hurl it upon us to bring us to terms."

It was finally determined to put General Putnam in command at New York, and he was hurried away, with all the troops in Boston but five regiments, and instructions to complete the fortifications commenced by General Lee. Two or three months before, in consequence of the appearance of a British fleet, under Clinton, in the harbor of New York, and the secret plottings of Governor Tryon and the Tories, Washington placed General Lee in command there. Lee at once arrested leading Tories, and sent them to prison, threatening all the rest, in his fiery way, with similar punishment if they continued to aid the enemy. Governor Tryon fled to a British man-of-war in the harbor, accompanied by several of his political advisers, and from those new headquarters he continued secret intercourse with the Tories. New dangers soon arising farther south, General Lee was transferred to the Southern Military Department, with headquarters at Williamsburg.

Such was the state of affairs in New York when General Putnam took command, with not more than eight thousand available troops in the town and vicinity.

Washington ordered three thousand militia to go to his aid from Connecticut, and as soon as he could arrange affairs in Boston he himself hastened to New York with his body-guard, where he arrived on the thirteenth day of April.

Before this time he had learned that General Howe proceeded to Halifax, to await large reinforcements from Great Britain; that his brother, Admiral Howe, with his naval fleet, would join him there, and then the great army would sail for New York.


He did not know, however, at that time, what the British Government was doing "to crush the rebels in North America." He learned afterwards that the king, stung to madness by the failure of his army in Boston, resolved to avenge the defeat by a terrible blow upon New York. He hired seventeen thousand Hessians to join the army, paying them liberally for their services, and these hirelings would swell the invading army to startling proportions.

Notwithstanding the evacuation of Boston, the cause of the patriots never seemed more hopeless than it did when the British army, under the two Howes, appeared below New York.

"Our army in Canada is beaten and shattered," Washington said, "and our cause is lost there. Here it is difficult to tell friend from foe. It is claimed that half of the people in New York are Tories, and what communications they may have with the British army, through Tryon, it is impossible to tell. We have not half the men absolutely required to hold this position, and what we have are poorly clad and equipped, and not half fed. Then we have reason to suspect that the enemy will come with greater inhumanity to man, and that fire and sword will do a more fearful work than ever. What some of the British officers are capable of doing in the way of fiendish devastation was shown in Boston, when the burning of every town between that city and Halifax was ordered, and Portland was laid in ashes."

Washington wrote to his brother:

"We expect a bloody summer in New York and Canada; and I am sorry to say that we are not, either in men or arms, prepare[358]d for it. However, it is to be hoped that, if our cause is just, as I most religiously believe, the same Providence which has in many instances appeared for us will still go on to afford us its aid."

Congress was in session at Philadelphia, and Washington went thither to confer with members concerning the summer campaign, and to plead for aid. Through his influence, Congress added twenty-three thousand militia to the army, including a flying camp of ten thousand.

In the midst of these troubles a conspiracy of startling magnitude was discovered. "A part of the plot being," says Sparks, "to seize General Washington and carry him to the enemy." Rev. John Marsh of Wethersfield, Conn., wrote and published the following account of the affair:

"About ten days before any of the conspirators were taken up, a woman went to the general and desired a private interview. He granted it to her, and she let him know that his life was in danger, and gave him such an account of the conspiracy as gained his confidence. He opened the matter to a few friends on whom he could depend. A strict watch was kept night and day, until a favorable opportunity occurred, when the general went to bed as usual, arose about two o'clock, told his lady that he was going with some of the Provincial Congress to order some Tories seized, desired she would make herself easy and go to sleep. He went off without any of his aides-de-camp, except the captain of his life-guard; was joined by a number of chosen men, with lanterns and proper instruments to break open houses; and before six o'clock next morning had forty men under guard at the City Hall, among whom was the mayor of the city, several merchants, and five or six of his own life-guard. Upon examination, on[359]e Forbes confessed that the plan was to assassinate the general and as many of the superior officers as they could, and to blow up the magazine upon the appearance of the enemy's fleet, and to go off in boats prepared for that purpose to join the enemy."

Thomas Hickey, one of Washington's own guard, was proved to be a leader in the plot, and he was sentenced to be hung. The sentence was executed on the twenty-eighth day of June, in a field near Bowery Lane, in the presence of twenty thousand people.

On the same day four of the enemy's warships dropped anchor in the bay. The next morning there were forty ships, and they continued to arrive until one hundred and thirty vessels of war and transports could be distinctly seen with a glass. The British troops were landed on Staten Island, where nearly all the people were Tories, although they had professed to be patriots.

While these warlike preparations were going forward, the American Congress was discussing the most important subject ever considered by a legislative body—that of American independence; and on the 4th of July, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

The discussion upon the adoption of this important document was conducted in secret session. The people outside knew what was before the Assembly, and there was great excitement. For hours citizens gathered about the State House, awaiting the decision with the utmost anxiety. A man was stationed in the steeple of the building to ring the bell when the decisive vote was declared. The bell was imported from England twenty-three years before, and bore this inscription:


"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof."

When the bell pealed forth the glad news that the Declaration of Independence was adopted, the joy of the people knew no bounds. The tidings spread from town to town, and awakened the most hearty response. On the ninth day of July, Washington caused the Declaration to be read at the head of each regiment, and it revived their drooping hopes more than the arrival of ten thousand recruits.

In their outburst of gladness, the soldiers indulged themselves in some excesses. There was a leaden statue of George III, in the Bowling Green, which they tore from its pedestal, and cut up, to run into bullets. Washington thought it was an unnecessary act of violence, denoting insubordination and recklessness, and he rebuked the deed by an order, in which he said:

"The general hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country."

One day, before the engagement came on, General Putnam was crossing a field, which is now the "Park," when his attention was called to a company of artillery on drill. Observing the company for several minutes, he remarked to the commander:

"A well-disciplined company!"

"With some more practice they will be," the commander replied modestly.

"Have they attained to this excellence of drill under your command?" [361]General Putnam asked, noticing that the officer could not be more than twenty years of age.

"Yes, sir; I have enjoyed some opportunities to study military science."


"First in the West Indies, where I was born. I was a merchant's clerk there, but longed for a military life, and finally I seized upon the first opportunity to study such books as I could find. After I came to this country my desire for military service did not abate, and I joined Captain Fleming's company."

"General Washington must know you," responded Putnam as he moved on.

We have introduced this incident here because the young commander was Alexander Hamilton, who became identified with the history of our country. He came to this country at fifteen; entered King's College, where he was the best scholar; joined one of the first volunteer companies organized in New York, and became so efficient that he was made captain of the artillery company he was drilling when General Putnam met him. He was not twenty years old at that time. Subsequently he became one of Washington's wisest counsellors. "In him were united," says another, "the patriot, the soldier, the statesman, the jurist, the orator, and philosopher, and he was great in them all."

British ships of war continued to arrive, bringing Hessians and Scotch Highlanders to swell the king's army. Still no particular movement to capture the city was made.


On the 21st of July, Washington heard from Sir Henry Clinton's fleet. Clinton left the British army in Boston, in December, 1775, and unexpectedly appeared in the harbor of New York, as we have stated. However, after a conference with Governor Tryon, he sailed south, saying that he had no intention of attacking New York.

Clinton soon appeared in Charleston Harbor, part of an expedition against South Carolina, under Sir Peter Parker, and in a few days joined in attacking the fort, six miles below the city. The fort was commanded by Sir William Moultrie. It was attacked with both fleet and army, on the twenty-eighth day of June, by one of the most terrible bombardments ever known at that time. An experienced British officer said, "It was the most furious fire I ever heard or saw."

A few days before, General Charles Lee advised abandoning the fort.

"A mere slaughter-house!" he exclaimed to Governor Rutledge, who was a true patriot. "A mere slaughter-house! A British man-of-war will knock it to pieces in half an hour!"

"Nevertheless, holding that fort is necessary to the defence of the city and State," answered Rutledge. "The fort must be held." He sent for Moultrie.

"General Moultrie, what do you think about giving up the fort?" he inquired, repeating the advice of General Lee.

Moultrie was indignant, and he replied:

"No man, sir, can have a higher opinion of British ships and seamen than I have. But there are others who love the smell o[363]f gunpowder as well as they do. Give us a plenty of powder and ball, sir, and let them come on as soon as they please."

"You shall have plenty of powder and ball," answered Rutledge, as he sent Moultrie back to his post.

The guns of Fort Moultrie riddled the British ships, and covered their decks with the dead and dying. One hundred and seventy-five men were killed on board the fleet, and as many more wounded. The Americans lost but thirty-five, and held the fort. A braver garrison never met a foe. Sergeant Jaspar saw the flag shot away, and leaped down upon the beach, snatched it up, and returned it to its place, shouting:

"Hurrah, boys! Liberty and America forever!" Governor Rutledge rewarded him with a sword.

Sergeant McDonald was terribly shattered by a cannon-ball, and he called out with his dying breath, "I die, but don't let the cause of liberty die with me!"

The enemy's fleet was driven off in a shattered condition. The commander was so deeply humiliated that even his black pilots insulted him. Weems says that he called to one of them:

"Cudjo, what water have you there?"

"What water, massa? what water? Why, salt water, sure sir! sea water always salt water, ain't he, massa?"

"You black rascal, I knew it was salt water; I only wanted t[364]o know how much water you have there?"

"How much water here, massa? how much water here? God bless me, massa! Where I going get quart pot for measure him?"

The commander, even in his chagrin and trouble, could not but laugh at Cudjo's idea of measuring the Atlantic ocean with a quart pot.

This discomfited fleet returned to New York and joined the British army.

When the news of the signal victory of the patriots at Moultrie reached Washington, he announced it to the army, and said:

"With such a bright example before us of what can be done by brave men fighting in defence of their country, we shall be loaded with a double share of shame and infamy if we do not acquit ourselves with courage, and manifest a determined resolution to conquer or die."

A detachment of the army was sent to construct works from Wallabout Bay to Red Hook. Washington rode out one day to inspect the defences, when he approached a subaltern officer who was directing his men to raise a heavy timber to its place. Instead of lending a helping hand, the conceited fellow stood, shouting:

"Hurrah, boys, n-o-w, right up, h-e-a-v-e," etc.

"Why do you not lend a helping hand?" said Washington, whom the officer did not know.

"What, sir! I lend a helping hand?" exclaimed the official sprig. "Why, [365]sir, I'll have you know that I am corporal!"

Washington leaped from his saddle, laid hold of the timber with the men, and helped lift it to its place. Then turning to the "corporal," he said sarcastically:

"Mr. Corporal, my name's George Washington. I have come over from New York to inspect the works here; so soon as you have done this piece of work, you will meet me at your commander's, General Sullivan's quarters."

Washington despised officers who felt above their business.

On a flying visit to Connecticut, he failed to reach his destination on Saturday night. Early Sunday morning he completed the few remaining miles of his journey. On his way, a tithing man came out of a house and inquired of the coachman:

"Is there any necessity of your travelling on the Lord's Day?"

Washington ordered his coachman to stop, and replied:

"I have no intention of breaking the laws of Connecticut; they meet my most cordial approbation. But I was disappointed in not being able to reach my destination last night, where I shall attend church."

Washington waited and waited for the enemy to move, and wondered that he did not. Putnam wrote to Gates:


"Is it not strange that those invincible troops who were to lay waste all the country, with their fleets and army, dare not put their feet on the main?"

About this time General Washington made the following address to his army:

"The time is now near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness, from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of a brave resistance or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die. Our own, our country's, honor calls upon us for a vigorous and manly action; and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us then rely upon the goodness of our cause, and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble actions."

The American army had grown by this time to over twenty thousand men poorly equipped and fed, though not more than fifteen thousand were available for immediate action. Congress was slow to provide supplies, and everything dragged. Many of the men carried only a spade, shovel or pick-axe. At the call of the country, they responded with shovels in hand, having no guns. They could throw up works, though destitute of arms to repel the foe. It was this destitute condition of our army that led a British officer to write home derisively:


"The rebels are armed with scythes and pitchforks."

To rebuke the growing vice and recklessness of the army, Washington issued the following order:

"The general is sorry to be informed that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice heretofore little known in an American army, is growing into fashion. He hopes the officers will by example, as well as influence, endeavor to check it, and that both they and the men will reflect that we can have little hope of the blessing of Heaven on our arms if we insult it by our impiety and folly; added to this, it is a vice so mean and low, without any temptation, that every man of sense and character detests and despises it."

On the 17th of August Washington observed a movement of the enemy.

"They are embarking," he said to one of his aides, "bound for some point. Thirty thousand of them will be able to crush us if, as General Lee says, 'God is on the side of heavy battalions.'"

He was not long in doubt concerning their destination, for they landed at Long Island.

"They mean to capture Brooklyn Heights," exclaimed Washington; "their designs are clear enough now."

"The city is at their mercy if they once capture that position," replied "Old Put," as the soldiers called General Putnam. "They must not be [368]suffered to gain that position."

"You must go to General Sullivan's aid with six battalions, all the force we can spare," said Washington. "There is no time to be lost."

In anticipation of such a movement, Washington had stationed a body of troops on Brooklyn Heights under General Greene; but the latter was taken sick, and General Sullivan succeeded him, and now General Putnam was placed in command. No more men could be sent to Brooklyn Heights, because Washington expected the British fleet would attack the city.

He received the following message from General Livingston of New Jersey:

"I saw movements of the enemy on Staten Island, and sent over a spy at midnight, who brought back the following intelligence: Twenty thousand men have embarked to make an attack on Long Island, and up the Hudson. Fifteen thousand remained on Staten Island, to attack Bergen Point, Elizabethtown Point, and Amboy." The spy heard the orders read and the conversation of the generals. "They appear very determined," added he, "and will put all to the sword."

Again, in expectation of an immediate attack, he addressed the army to inspire them with determined valor, and said:

"The enemy have landed upon Long Island, and the hour is fast approaching on which the honor and success of this army, and the safety of our bleeding country, depend. Remember, officers and soldiers, that you are free men, fighting for the blessings of liberty; that slavery will be your portion, and that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men. It is th[369]e general's express orders that, if any man attempt to skulk, lie down, or retreat without orders, he be instantly shot down for an example."

Fifteen thousand British troops landed and advanced to seize the Heights. It was on the twenty-first day of August, 1776. A terrific battle of seven days followed, in which the slaughter and suffering were fearful. Alternate victory and defeat were experienced by both sides. Sometimes it was a hand-to-hand fight with bayonets. As Washington beheld a detachment of his heroic men pierced to death by Hessian bayonets, he wrung his hands in an agony of spirit, and exclaimed:

"O good God, what brave fellows I must this day lose!"

There were but five thousand Americans pitted in this battle against fifteen thousand British, and yet they fought seven days.

On the twenty-eighth day of August, the British moved their line of battle to within a mile of the Yankee breast-works on the Heights. The capture of the Heights, with all the American soldiers, seemed inevitable. Between them and New York was the East River, which the enemy's fleet commanded. Before them was the foe, numbering three to one. To human view there was no hope for the brave little army of patriots.

But on that night a storm arose, and a dense fog enveloped the Heights. Early in the evening the rain began to fall, and, together, fog and rain created a dismal scene. At the same time a brisk breeze sprang up, sufficient to waft the boats across to the New York side. If anything more were needed to prove that God was favoring the smallest battalions, [370]it was the fact that the night was clear on the New York side of the river.

"God is propitious to-night," said Washington to Putnam in a hopeful tone. "Under cover of this darkness we must cross the river and save our army."

"Our only salvation," replied Putnam.

Washington superintended the retreat personally, and, as the fog did not clear away until ten o'clock on the following day, his whole force, with guns and ammunition, were carried across the river before the enemy discovered the retreat. This retreat was regarded as one of the most signal achievements of the war. Sparks says, in his "Life of Washington:"

"The retreat, in its plan, execution, and success, has been regarded as one of the most remarkable military events in history, and as reflecting the highest credit on the talents and skill of the commander. So intense was the anxiety of Washington, so unceasing his exertions, that for forty-eight hours he did not close his eyes, and rarely dismounted from his horse."

"We cannot hold New York," said Washington, at a council of war he called immediately. "We are at the mercy of the enemy on every hand."

"From Brooklyn Heights British guns can lay this city in ashes," added Putnam.

"That is true; but the Howes will never order that destruction so long [371]as half the citizens are Tories," replied Washington.

"Sure enough; that is a voucher against such a measure," responded Putnam. "But if thirty thousand well-armed and well-fed British troops, having possession of all the land and water around Manhattan Island, can't capture this small and undisciplined army, they don't deserve the name of soldiers."

"And now our men are disheartened," continued Washington. "We lost nearly two thousand men, killed, wounded, and missing, on Brooklyn Heights, and many of those who escaped have deserted. We must evacuate the city."

"And leave it in flames," added Putnam.

"Yes, apply the torch," said another; "we must do it in self-defence. What a strong position against us it will afford to the enemy!"

Washington saw reasons for adopting this extreme measure, but he could not take the responsibility. He did write to Congress about it, however, as follows:

"If we should be obliged to abandon the town, ought it to stand as winter quarters for the enemy? They would derive great convenience from it on the one hand, and much property would be destroyed on the other. At the present, I dare say, the enemy mean to preserve it if they can."

On the tenth day of September, Congress voted to leave the fate of the city in Washington's hands, and he left it unharmed.


Concerning the alarming desertions after the retreat from Brooklyn Heights, he wrote, in humane extenuation of the deserters' offence:

"Men just dragged from the tender scenes of domestic life, and unaccustomed to the din of arms, totally unacquainted with every kind of military skill, are timid, and ready to fly from their own shadows. Besides, the sudden change in their manner of living brings on an unconquerable desire to return to their homes."

Establishing his headquarters at King's Bridge, Washington superintended the retreat from New York, which was accomplished without the loss of anything except his heaviest cannon.

Colonel Humphreys wrote: "I had frequent opportunities that day of beholding Washington issuing orders, encouraging the troops, flying on his horse covered with foam, wherever his presence was most necessary. Without his extraordinary exertions the guards must have been inevitably lost, and it is possible the entire corps would have been cut in pieces."

He made a noble stand at Harlem Heights for three weeks, where he had several encounters with the foe. In one of these, two of his most brilliant officers were killed, Colonel Knowlton and Major Leith. Knowlton's last words were, "Did we drive the enemy in?" Speaking of Colonel Knowlton reminds us of an incident.

Soon after the retreat from Brooklyn, Washington said to Knowlton:

"It is important for me to know the strength of the enemy on [373]Long Island. Can you name a trusty man who will find out?"

"I can," answered Knowlton. "If he will consent, he is just the man for such service."

"Send him to me immediately."

Within a short time Nathan Hale of Connecticut, one of the bravest and most promising young officers in the army, presented himself to the general.

"Can you ascertain for me the number and strength of the British on Long Island?" asked Washington.

"I think I can," replied Hale; "I am willing to try."

"You understand that it will cost your life if the enemy capture you. It is serious business."

"I understand. I understood that when I entered the army," was young Hale's cool and heroic reply.

"Go, then, and quickly as possible obtain the information I so much need."

Hale went to Long Island in the capacity of a schoolmaster, obtained the information that Washington desired, and on his return was discovered and arrested as a spy. Without trial or court-martial he was executed, in extremely aggravating circumstances.


"A clergyman, whose attendance he desired, was refused him; a Bible, for a moment's devotion, was not procured though he requested it. Letters which on the morning of his execution, he wrote to his mother and sister, were destroyed; and this very extraordinary reason was given by the provost-martial, 'that the rebels should not know that they had a man in the army who could die with so much firmness.' Unknown to all around him, without a single friend to offer him the least consolation, as amiable and as worthy a young man as America could boast was thus hung as a spy." His last words were:

"I lament only that I have but one life to give to the cause of liberty and the rights of man."

Soon after Washington withdrew his defeated army to Harlem Heights, he heard cannonading at the landing, where breastworks had been thrown up. Springing upon his horse, he galloped away in the direction of the firing, and, before he reached the place, he met his soldiers in full retreat before a squad of British, numbering not more than sixty or seventy. He drew his sword, and with threats, endeavored to rally them; but in vain. He was so shocked by their cowardice, and so determined to repel the foe, that he would have dashed forward to his death, had not his aides seized the reins of his charger, and turned him in the other direction.

On the 20th of September, after the British took possession of New York, a fire started one night in a drinking saloon, where soldiers were revelling (perhaps celebrating their triumphal entry into the city), and it spread with great rapidity. The buildings were mostly of wood, so that the devouring flames licked them up as tinder; and although the thousands of British soldiers exerted themselves to the utmost to extinguish the fire, one quarter of the city, about one thousand [375]buildings, was laid in ashes.

At this time the army in Canada had withdrawn to Crown Point, numbering about six thousand, one half of them being sick and the other half disheartened and disaffected. General Washington ordered them to retire to Ticonderoga for safety and rest. The small-pox was spreading among them to an alarming degree.

Jealousies among officers, dissatisfaction among soldiers, clashing interests among the Colonies, and a growing distrust of Washington, added to the complications of the American cause, and to the trials of Congress and the commander-in-chief.

Referring to the discordant interests throughout most of the Colonies, John Adams wrote: "It requires more serenity of temper, a deeper understanding, and more courage than fell to the lot of Marlborough, to ride in this whirlwind."

By request, General Lee returned from the South at this time. He was an accomplished military officer, and his successes at the South added much to his laurels. Many regarded him superior to Washington. The latter esteemed him highly as an officer of skill and experience. At a council of war held soon after his arrival, General Lee said:

"A position is not a good one simply because its approaches are difficult. No army can maintain itself with the enemy in front and rear, especially when the enemy's ships command the water on each side, as they do here. Your recent experience on Long Island and in New York shows the danger of such position."


"That is very true," answered Washington. "We cannot afford to hazard too much in the present condition of the army. I have satisfactory evidence that General Howe's purpose is to surround our camp, and capture the whole American army."

"And he is not much of a general if he does not do it," responded Lee. "For my part, I would have nothing to do with the islands to which you have been clinging so pertinaciously. I would give Mr. Howe a fee-simple of them."

"Where and when shall we be in a better condition to meet the enemy?" inquired General George Clinton, a brave but inexperienced officer. "We must fight the enemy somewhere; why not here?"

"I will answer your inquiry," replied Washington. "We shall be in a better condition to meet the foe when the Colonies have had time to furnish their quotas of recruits, as recently ordered by Congress."

At the earnest solicitation of Washington, Congress had voted that the Colonies should furnish eighty-eight battalions, in quotas, according to their abilities; that the pay of officers should be raised; troops serving throughout the war should receive a bounty of twenty dollars and one hundred acres of land, with a new suit of clothes annually. Those enlisting for three years were to receive twenty dollars bounty, but no land. This provision was a response to Washington's frequent protests against short enlistments and small pay, and it pointed to a reorganization of the army, on a permanent footing, according to Washington's frequently expressed ideas. The general had great expectations of relief from this more liberal policy.

"Our present action should look solely to the safety of the army," [377]interjected Lee. "To save it from annihilation or capture is our first duty."

"Certainly," rejoined Washington; "and now let this question be answered definitely: whether (considering that the obstructions in the North River have proved insufficient, and that the enemy's whole force is in our rear on Grog Point), it is now deemed possible, in our situation, to prevent the enemy from cutting off the communication with the country, and compelling us to fight them at all disadvantages or surrender prisoners at discretion?"

Every number of the council except General Clinton decided that it was impossible to occupy the present position without exposing the army to destruction or capture; hence, another retreat followed.


Washington withdrew his army to White Plains, leaving nearly three thousand of his best troops to garrison Fort Washington. Congress believed that Fort Washington could hold the Hudson secure, and therefore ordered that a strong garrison be left there. It was not according to General Washington's idea, after he decided to retreat to White Plains, but he yielded to the request of Congress. General Putnam's obstructions in the river amounted to little. Four galleys, [378]mounted with heavy guns and swivels; two new ships, filled with stones, to be sunk at the proper moment; a sloop at anchor, having on board an infernal machine for submarine explosion, with which to blow up the men-of-war; these were among the aids to the Fort, together with batteries on either shore, to prevent the enemy ascending the Hudson. Yet, on the ninth day of October, three British war-ships sailed triumphantly up the river, sweeping through the obstructions, with little damage to themselves.

The British pursued the American army. Washington threw up intrenchments hastily, designing to make but a temporary stay there. General Lee arrived with the rear division of the army, after the temporary fortifications were well under way.

"This is but a temporary camp," remarked Washington to Lee. "Yonder height (pointing to the north) is a more eligible location."

"I judge so," General Lee answered, taking in the situation at once.

"Let us ride out and inspect the ground for ourselves," proposed Washington. And they galloped away. On arriving at the spot, General Lee pointed to still another height farther north.

"That is the ground we ought to occupy," he said.

"Well, let us go and view it," replied Washington.

They had not reached the location when a courier came dashing up to them.

"The British are in the camp, sir!" he exclaimed to Washington.


"Then we have other business to attend to than reconnoitering," quickly and coolly replied the general, putting spurs to his horse and returning to camp.

"The pickets are driven in, but our army is in order of battle," Adjutant-General Reed informed him, as he reached headquarters.

"Gentlemen, return to your respective posts, and do the best you can," the general responded, without the least excitement.

By this time the British army was discovered upon the high ground beyond the village, advancing in two columns, "in all the pomp and circumstance of war." General Heath wrote afterwards:

"It was a brilliant but formidable sight. The sun shone bright, their arms glittered, and perhaps troops never were shown to more advantage."

A brief but hard-fought battle followed, in which there was a loss of about four hundred men on each side.

The enemy waited for reinforcements, and Washington improved the time to fall back to Northcastle, five miles, where, in the rocky fastness, he could defy the whole British army. To add to his advantages, the day on which the British commander decided upon an attack, after the arrival of reinforcements, a violent rain set in, and continued through the day, rendering an attack impossible, so that the Americans had still more time to strengthen their position.


On the night of Nov. 4, a heavy rumbling sound was heard in the direction of the British camp. It continued all through the night, and resembled the noise of wagons and artillery in motion. Day break disclosed the cause: the enemy was decamping. Long trains were seen moving over the hilly country towards Dobb's Ferry on the Hudson.

"A feint!" said General Lee, as soon as he discovered the situation.

"A retreat, more like," replied another officer. "The enemy sees little hope in attacking this stronghold."

"I can hardly believe that so large and well-disciplined an army is going to withdraw without giving battle," responded Washington. "No doubt an attack upon Fort Washington is the immediate purpose; and then, perhaps an invasion into the Jerseys."

There was much speculation among the officers as to the meaning of this manœuvre, and all of them were in more or less perplexity. Washington wrote immediately to Governor Livingston of New Jersey and hurried a messenger away with the letter:


"They have gone towards North River and King's Bridge. Some suppose they are going into winter quarters, and will sit down in New York without doing more than investing Fort Washington. I cannot subscribe wholly to this opinion myself. That they will invest Fort Washington is a matter of which there can be no doubt, and I think there is a strong probability that General Howe will detach a part of his force to make an incursion into the Jerseys, provided he is going to New York. He must attempt something on account of his reputation, for what has he done as yet with his great army?"

Satisfied that General Howe intended to capture Fort Washington, he advised its evacuation. He wrote to General Greene:

"If we cannot prevent vessels from passing up the river, and the enemy are possessed of all the surrounding country, what valuable purpose can it answer to hold a post from which the expected benefit cannot be had? I am, therefore, inclined to think that it will not be prudent to hazard the men and stores at Mount Washington; but as you are on the spot, I leave it to you to give such orders as to evacuating Mount Washington as you may judge best, and so far revoking the orders given to Colonel Morgan, to defend it to the last."

General Greene took the responsibility to hold the fort; and when Colonel Morgan received a demand from the enemy to surrender, he replied: "I shall defend the fort to the last."

After a manly resistance, however, he was forced to surrender; and the fort, with its garrison of twenty-eight hundred men, and abundant stores, passed into the hands of the enemy. The prisoners were taken to New York and confined in the notorious British prison-ship, where they suffered long and terribly.

This was a very unfortunate affair for the American cause, and caused the commander-in-chief great anxiety. He wrote to his brother about it in a gloomy mood, and said:

"In ten days from this date there will not be above two thousand men, if that number, of the fixed, established regiments on thi[382]s side of the Hudson River, to oppose Howe's whole army; and very little more on the other, to secure the eastern Colonies, and the important passes leading through the Highlands to Albany, and the country about the lakes.... I am wearied almost to death with the retrograde movement of things, and I solemnly protest that a pecuniary reward of twenty thousand pounds a year would not induce me to undergo what I do, and, after all, perhaps to lose my character; as it is impossible, under such a variety of distressing circumstances, to conduct matters agreeably to public expectation."

Washington's command was now at Fort Lee (formerly Fort Constitution). The next movement of the enemy was designed to hem them in between the Hudson and Hackensack, and capture them. The commander-in-chief ordered a hasty retreat, the want of horses and wagons making it necessary to abandon a large quantity of baggage, stores, and provisions, and even the tents and all the cannon except two twelve pounders. The retreat over the Hackensack was successfully performed, and here Washington ordered Colonel Greyson to send the following message to General Lee:

"Remove the troops under your command to this side of the North River, and there wait for further orders."

The next day Washington wrote to Lee:

"I am of opinion, and the gentlemen about me concur in it, that the public interest requires your coming over to this side of the Hudson with the Continental troops."

Not more than three thousand soldiers were with Washington at Hackensack, without intrenching tools, tents, and necessary supplies. To [383]risk an engagement in these circumstances was hazardous in the extreme, and a further retreat became inevitable. Leaving three regiments to guard the passages of the Hackensack, and to serve as covering parties, he withdrew to Newark, on the west bank of the Passaic.

To add to the perils of his situation, the term of enlistment of General Mercer's command was about to expire. He must have reinforcements, or his entire army would be destroyed. He hurried away Colonel Reed to Governor Livingston of New Jersey, and General Mifflin to Philadelphia, to implore aid. At the same time he depended upon General Lee for immediate reinforcements, not doubting that the latter was obeying his orders; but, to his amazement, a letter from Lee revealed the startling fact that he had not moved from Northcastle.

Washington renewed his orders to Lee to move with all possible despatch and come to his rescue. He said:

"The enemy are pushing on, and part of them have crossed the Passaic. Their plans have not entirely unfolded, but I shall not be surprised to find that Philadelphia is the object of their movement."

"We cannot make a stand here," said General Greene.

"By no means," answered Washington. "My hope is to make a stand at Brunswick, on the Raritan; or, certainly, to dispute the passage of the Delaware."

"Our retreat to Brunswick must be hastened, or the enemy will be upon us," added Greene.


The retreat was precipitated; and when the rear-guard of Washington's command was leaving one end of Newark, the vanguard of the British army was entering at the other.

On reaching Brunswick, Washington wrote at once to Governor Livingston, instructing him to collect all the boats and river craft on the Delaware for seventy miles, remove them to the western bank of the river, away from the enemy, and guard them.

He was doomed to additional disappointment at Brunswick. Colonel Reed raised no troops in New Jersey, and many of those raised by General Mifflin in Pennsylvania were deserting. The term of enlistment of General Mercer's command had expired, and no inducement or entreaties could prevail upon them to remain. He could not muster over four thousand men.

Still worse, a letter from General Lee to Colonel Reed disclosed the fact that the former had not given heed to the orders of his chief, and he was still at Northcastle. Moreover, the letter revealed that General Lee was plotting against him. Colonel Reed was absent when the letter arrived, and, according to his custom, Washington opened the letter, supposing it related to military business. What was his surprise to find that the letter contained insinuations against himself, and also implicated Colonel Reed, his old friend, in a plot to make Lee commander-in-chief.

We will say here, once for all, that, while General Lee was an able military officer, he was an ambitious, arrogant, and deceitful man. On his return from the South, his fame had reached the zenith, and some thought he ought to lead the American army. Washington's continued [385]retreats increased this feeling, until General Lee evidently thought there was a fair prospect of the removal of Washington, and his own promotion to commander-in-chief. Even Colonel Reed entertained this opinion, though afterwards he saw his mistake, and made suitable amends. This explains Lee's conduct before and after Washington retired from Brunswick.

Judge Jay related the following incident: "A short time before the death of John Adams, I was conversing with my father about the American Revolution. Suddenly he remarked:

"'Ah, William! The history of that Revolution will never be known. Nobody now alive knows it but John Adams and myself.'

"'You surprise me, father; to what can you refer?'

"'The proceedings of the old Congress.'

"'What proceedings?'

"'Those against Washington; from first to last there was a bitter party against him.'"

The "old Congress" sat with closed doors, so that the public learned only what it was wise to disclose.

Washington waited for recruits at Brunswick until the 1st of December. On that day the vanguard of the British army appeared on the opposite side of the Raritan. Washington destroyed the end of the bridge next to the village, to intercept the pursuit of the enemy, and retreated. [386]Stopping at Princeton temporarily, he left twelve hundred troops there, under Lord Stirling and General Stephens, to keep an eye on the foe, and continued his retreat to Trenton.

While the American army decreased from week to week, the British army in pursuit was augmented; for, through the Jerseys, General Howe impressed men, horses, and wagons, and at the same time many Tories flocked to his standard. He issued a proclamation, also, offering pardon and protection to all citizens who would take the oath of allegiance to the king. There was so little hope of the American cause at that time, and Washington's army appeared so plainly to be near destruction, that many citizens took the oath and joined the British army, as they thought, from absolute necessity. "Many who had been prominent in the cause, hastened to take advantage of this proclamation," says Irving. "Those who had the most property to lose were the first to submit; the middle ranks remained generally steadfast in this time of trial."

A British officer wrote to his friends in London:

"The rebels continue flying before our army. Lord Cornwallis took the fort opposite Brunswick, plunged into Raritan River, and seized the town.... Such a panic has seized the rebels that no part of the Jerseys will hold them, and I doubt whether Philadelphia itself will stop their career. The Congress have lost their authority.... They are in such consternation that they know not what to do. The two Adamses are in New England; Franklin gone to France; Lynch has lost his senses; Rutledge has gone home disgusted; Dana is persecuting at Albany; and Jay is in the country, playing as bad a part, so that the fools have lost the assistance of the knaves."


"This," says Sparks, "was the gloomiest period of the war. The campaign had been little else than a series of disasters and retreats. The enemy had gained possession of Rhode Island, Long Island, the city of New York, Staten Island, and nearly the whole of the Jerseys, and seemed on the point of extending their conquests into Pennsylvania. By the fatal scheme of short enlistments, and by sickness, the effective force with General Washington had dwindled away, till it hardly deserved the name of an army."

Still Washington was hopeful, and expected that the cause of right would triumph. When and how he could not tell; but he continued to say, "That Providence which has brought us out of many difficulties will yet crown our righteous cause with success."

"I expected substantial aid from the Jerseys," he said to General Mercer. "I am disappointed that the people have not flocked to our standard."

"I am more than disappointed," replied Mercer; "I am shocked and vexed at the cowardice of the people."

"What think you," continued Washington, "if we should retreat to the back part of Pennsylvania, would the Pennsylvanians support us?"

The mountainous regions of Pennsylvania were the field of his early exploits against the French and Indians, and Mercer was with him there.

"If the lower counties give up, the back counties will do the same," Mercer answered in a desponding way.


"We must then retire to Augusta County, Virginia," responded Washington, his indomitable spirit rising superior to all discouragements. "Numbers will repair to us for safety, and we will try a predatory war. If overpowered, we must cross the Alleghanies."

Before this time, Colonel Reed said to him one day, "When shall we stop this everlasting retreating and make a stand?"

Washington answered, without the least show of resentment:

"If it becomes necessary, we will retreat over every river and mountain in America."

Such an unconquerable spirit receives its reward at last.

Lee did not leave Northcastle until the last of November. True, he ordered General Heath to a movement that he claimed would support Washington; but when General Heath found that Lee was not obeying the orders of the commander-in-chief, he refused to entertain his commands.

"I am amenable to the commander-in-chief, and cannot supply you with troops as you order," he said.

"In point of law you are right," said Lee, "but in point of policy I think you are wrong. I am going into the Jerseys for the salvation of America; I wish to take with me a larger force than I now have, and request you to order two thousand of your men to march with me."

"I cannot spare that number."

"Then order one thousand."


"No, not a thousand."

"How many, then?" continued Lee.

"Not one," answered Heath. "I may as well bring this matter to a point at once; not a single man will I furnish from this post by your order."

"Then," exclaimed Lee in an excited manner, "I will order them myself."

"That makes a wide difference," rejoined Heath. "You are my senior, but I have received positive written instructions from him who is superior to us both, and I will not myself break those orders. Read them."

He handed Washington's letter to Lee, in which he positively forbade the removal of any troops from that post.

"The commander-in-chief is now at a distance," said Lee, after reading the letter, "and he does not know what is necessary here as well as I do."

Turning to Major Huntington, Lee said authoritatively:

"You will order two regiments (designating the two) to march early to-morrow morning to join me."

General Heath was surprised and indignant at Lee's assumption of authority, and he said to the major, "Issue such orders at your peril!"


Then turning to Lee, he added:

"Sir, if you come to this post, and mean to issue orders here which will break the positive ones I have received I pray you do it completely yourself, and through your own deputy adjutant-general, who is present, and not draw me or any of my family in as partners in the guilt."

"It is right," answered Lee. "Colonel Scammel, do you issue the order."

"I have one more request to make," interrupted General Heath, "and that is, that you will be pleased to give me a certificate that you exercise command at this post, and order from it these regiments."

Lee objected, but General George Clinton, who was present, said:

"That is a very reasonable request, General Lee, and surely you cannot refuse it."

Without replying, he immediately wrote the following:

"For the satisfaction of General Heath, and at his request, I do certify that I am commanding officer, at this present writing, in this post, and that I have, in that capacity, ordered Prescott's and Wyllis' regiments to march."

The next morning General Lee rode up to Heath's door, and said:


"Upon further consideration I have concluded not to take the two regiments with me. You may order them to return to their former post."

Evidently the ambitious and conceited general had come to the conclusion that "discretion is the better part of valor."

General Lee did not cross the Hudson until the 4th of December, moving snail-like, although he knew that Washington's army was in imminent peril.

"Do come on," Washington's last plea was; "your arrival may be fortunate, and, if it can be effected without delay, it may be the means of preserving a city whose loss must prove of the most fatal consequence to the cause of America."

The "city" referred to was Philadelphia. Washington had written to him that the enemy was designing to capture Philadelphia, a calamity that must be prevented if possible.

At this time Washington had removed the baggage and stores of his army across the Delaware. Being reinforced, however, by fifteen hundred Pennsylvania militia, he resolved to march back to Princeton and await developments. On his way he met General Stirling, who had evacuated Princeton, as Cornwallis was marching upon it with a large force. Returning to Trenton, he hastily collected all the boats possible, and conveyed his whole force over the Delaware, including General Stirling's command from Princeton. The rear-guard had scarcely crossed the river when Cornwallis appeared in the distance with his "bannered hosts." As Washington had taken possession of all the boats and transports, the enemy could not cross.

The tact and skill of Washington as a general were as conspicuous in his [392]retreat through the Jerseys as they were on any battlefield. Thomas Paine accompanied the army, and he wrote:

"With a handful of men we sustained an orderly retreat for near an hundred miles, brought off our ammunition, all our field-pieces, the greatest part of our stores, and had four rivers to pass. None can say that our retreat was precipitate, for we were three weeks in performing it, that the country might have time to come in. Twice we marched back to meet the enemy, and remained out until dark. The sign of fear was not seen in our camp; and had not some of the cowardly and disaffected inhabitants spread false alarms through the country, the Jerseys had never been ravaged."

On the 12th of December, General Lee had marched no farther than Vealtown, eight miles from Morristown. He continued to disregard Washington's appeals and instructions, receiving one almost every day. In some of them the commander-in-chief showed that his patience was well nigh exhausted.

"I am surprised that you should be in doubt about the route you are to take after my definite instructions," he wrote on the 11th of December.

"I have so frequently mentioned our situation, and the necessity of your aid, that it is painful for me to add a word on the subject," he wrote on the same day.

At Vealtown Lee left his troops in command of General Sullivan, and took up his own quarters at a "tavern" in Baskingridge, three miles off. He was very partial to "taverns" especially if well stocked with certain articles to please his palate.


On the next morning, about 11 o'clock, General Lee was writing at the table, and Major Wilkinson was looking out of the window. The latter arrived early in the morning with a letter from his commander, General Gates, and General Lee was replying to it.

"The British cavalry are upon us!" shouted Wilkinson in consternation.

"Where?" exclaimed Lee, springing from his chair.

"Right here, around the house," answered Wilkinson, who beheld a detachment of British cavalry surrounding the tavern.

"Where are the guards?" cried out Lee, in his surprise and horror. "Why don't they fire?"

It was a cold morning, and the guards had stacked their arms, and passed around to the south side of the house to sun themselves. They scarcely observed the enemy's presence until they heard the demand to surrender.

"If General Lee does not surrender in five minutes I will set fire to the house!"

At the same time the guards were chased in different directions. The demand for Lee to surrender was repeated, and he did surrender. Hastily he was put upon Wilkinson's horse, which stood at the door, and within three hours the enemy were exulting over him at Brunswick.

"No one to blame but himself," remarked Heath.

"Good enough for him," said many Americans.


General Sullivan was now in command, and he joined the commander-in-chief as soon as possible.

In Wilkinson's memoir it is said that Lee delayed so strangely in order to intercept the enemy in pursuit of Washington; and it is added:

"If General Lee had anticipated General Washington in cutting the cordon of the enemy between New York and the Delaware, the commander-in-chief would probably have been superseded. In this case Lee would have succeeded him."

Washington was too magnanimous to exult over the fall of Lee. Notwithstanding his knowledge of Lee's plans to supersede him, he wrote to his brother:

"Before you receive this letter, you will undoubtedly have heard of the capture of General Lee. This is an additional misfortune; and the more vexatious, as it was by his own folly and imprudence, and without a view to effect any good, that he was taken. As he went to lodge three miles out of his own camp, and within twenty miles of the enemy, a rascally Tory rode in the night to give notice of it to the enemy, who sent a party of light-horse, who seized him, and carried him off with every mark of triumph and indignity."



Washington was so anxious for the safety of Philadelphia, that he appointed General Putnam to command the post, with instructions to fortify the city at once. At the same time he advised Congress to remove to Baltimore; and that body, after hastily completing the business before them, adjourned to meet in the latter city on the 20th of December.

By this time his army numbered about five thousand available men. One thousand militia from New Jersey, and fifteen hundred from Pennsylvania, with five hundred Germans from the latter State, was a very encouraging increase of his worn and wasted army. Then he had word that General Gates was coming on with seven regiments detached by Schuyler from the northern department. Washington was hopeful again, and began to plan an attack upon the enemy.

Before Congress adjourned to meet at Baltimore, they clothed Washington with unusual powers. They voted:

"Until Congress orders otherwise, General Washington shall be possessed of all power to order and direct all things relative to the department and to the operations of war."

In the days of ancient Rome, such power would have constituted him a military dictator. It was conferred in answer to a remarkable communication from Washington himself, one of the most able, practical, and faithful public documents extant, in which he said:


"It may be thought that I am going a good deal out of the line of my duty to adopt these measures or advise thus freely. A character to lose, an estate to forfeit, the inestimable blessings of liberty at stake, and a life devoted, must be my excuse."

Washington immediately recruited three battalions of artillery. He promised those whose time of enlistment had expired an increase of twenty-five per cent to their pay if they would remain, and ten dollars bounty for six weeks' service. "It is no time to stand upon expense," he said.

On the 20th of December, General Sullivan arrived with Lee's army. The men were in a bad plight, many of them sick and exhausted, others ragged and desponding. On the same day, also, General Gates arrived with the remnants of four regiments from the Northern army.

"Now is our time to strike a blow that shall put heart into the friends of our cause," said Washington to General Greene.

"I am at your service in any enterprise that will do that," answered Greene. "Explain."

"I propose an immediate attack upon the enemy," said Washington.

"Well, there is no cowardice in that proposition," remarked Greene. "To recross the Delaware that is filled with ice, and attack the enemy in his own camp, this wintry weather, is worthy of the commander-in-chief of the American army."

"Howe has gone into winter quarters in New York," continued Washington. [397]"His troops are scattered about loosely, because he thinks the rebel army is powerless. Cornwallis has left our front, and returned to New York. The Hessians are stationed along the Delaware, facing us, and are thinking more of a good time, probably, in this Christmas season, than they are of us. It is a good time to surprise them."

"Perhaps so," answered Greene. "How about crossing the river with so much floating ice in it?"

"That is not an insuperable barrier," replied Washington. "Besides, if we wait until the river is frozen over, the enemy will surprise us."

"You are resolved to attack them?" added Greene.

"Yes, on the 25th, which is close by."

General Greene and the other officers entered into the plan with all their hearts, as soon as they fully comprehended it. The night of the 25th was the earliest moment the army could move. The intervening time would be required for preparation.

"A good chance to avenge the loss of Fort Washington, and the wrongs inflicted upon the people of Jersey by the Hessians," remarked General Greene to his command. The Hessians had been reckless and destructive in their march through the Jerseys.

"Miserable hirelings, these Hessians!" exclaimed Major Wilkinson, by way of stirring up the soldiers to crave an attack upon them. "Such wretches, fighting us for mere pay, without caring whether liberty or slavery reigns, deserve to be shot."


The night of the 25th was a boisterous one. A storm was coming on, and the Delaware rolled tempestuously. But, undismayed, Washington ordered the army to move at dark. He crossed the Delaware nine miles above Trenton, where there were fifteen hundred Hessians and a troop of British light-horse, to march down upon the town. General Ewing, with his force, was to have crossed a mile below the town, but was prevented by the quantity of ice. General Putnam, with the troops occupied in fortifying Philadelphia, crossed below Burlington.

When Washington was ready to march, after crossing the river, a furious storm of snow and sleet began to beat in the faces of the troops, to impede their progress. It was eight o'clock before the head of the column reached the village. Seeing a man chopping wood, Washington inquired:

"Which way is the Hessian picket?"

"I don't know," the man replied.

"You may tell," said Captain Forest of the artillery, "for that is General Washington."

The man changed his aspect instantly. Raising both hands heavenward, he exclaimed:

"God bless and prosper you!"

Then pointing to a house, he said:

"The picket is in that house, and the sentry stands near that [399]tree."

Rising in his stirrups, and waving his sword in the air, Washington addressed his troops: "There, boys, are the enemies of your country! All I ask of you is to remember what you are about to fight for! March!"

Soon the battle began. It was a complete surprise to the foe. They rallied at first, and undertook to make a stand, but were unable to breast the storm of shot that beat into their very faces. The British light-horse fled from the town, together with other troops, none of which could have escaped if General Ewing and General Cadwalader had been able to cross the river, and coöperate with Washington, according to his plan. They were to guard the only way of retreat open to the enemy.

The battle was short and decisive. Many Hessians were killed, and their brave commander, Colonel Rahl, fell mortally wounded. He was conveyed carefully to the house of a Quaker lady, where General Washington paid him a visit before leaving town.

"The misfortunes of war are to be deplored," remarked Washington, taking the dying man by the hand, and expressing his sympathy for him.

"Death is preferable to life with this dishonor," answered Rahl.

Washington spoke in praise of the bravery of his men, to which Rahl replied, though he was really suffering the agony of death:


"I entreat you, General Washington, not to take anything from my men but their arms."

"I will not," answered Washington; and he kept the promise.

Washington took about a thousand prisoners in this battle, including thirty-two officers. His seizure of artillery and stores, also, was quite large. With prisoners and stores he recrossed the Delaware to his camp.

The fame of this brilliant exploit spread from town to town, reviving the despondent hopes of the many in sympathy with the American cause.

Despatches from Cadwalader and Reed assured Washington that the British army, fleeing from Trenton, had spread consternation everywhere among the enemy. Trenton, Bordentown, and other places were deserted by the foe, who, panic-stricken by the victory of Washington, fled in confusion.

Washington saw that now was his time to drive the British from the Jerseys. He sent to Generals McDougall and Maxwell at Morristown, ordering them to collect as large a force of militia as possible, and harass the retreating enemy in the rear. He wrote to General Heath, also, to come down at once from the Highlands, with the eastern militia; and he despatched gentlemen of influence in different directions, to arouse the militia to revenge the wrongs inflicted upon the people by the Hessians. He said:

"If what they have suffered does not rouse their resentment, they must not possess the feelings of humanity."

On the 29th of December, Washington crossed the Delaware again with a portion of his troops, though two days were consumed in the passage of [401]all of them, on account of the ice and boisterous weather. A portion of his troops were expecting to go home at the end of the month, as the term of their enlistment expired; but Washington drew them up in line, and addressed them, appealing to their patriotism, inviting them to re-enlist, and offering them ten dollars bounty for six weeks' service. Most of them remained.

Taking advantage of the power vested in him, the commander-in-chief wrote to Robert Morris, "the patriot financier at Philadelphia," pleading for hard money to meet the emergency.

"If you could possibly collect a sum, if it were but one hundred or one hundred and fifty pounds, it would be of service."

Scarce as hard money was, Morris obtained the amount of a wealthy Quaker, and forwarded it to Washington by express the next morning.

After the victory at Trenton, Congress, in session at Baltimore, took additional action to invest Washington with all necessary powers; and that body said, in their communication to him:

"Happy is it for this country that the general of their forces can safely be entrusted with the most unlimited power, and neither personal security, liberty, or property, be in the least degree endangered thereby."

As soon as the news of the capture of the Hessians at Trenton reached New York, General Howe hurried Cornwallis off to Princeton, where about eight thousand of his army were wintering, with instructions to attack Washington. On the second day of January, 1777, the latter posted his [402]troops on the east side of a small stream, the Assumpink, learning that Cornwallis was marching upon him. About mid-day Cornwallis approached with five or six thousand troops, and attempted to cross the river; but the Americans repulsed him. The engagement continued until dark, when Cornwallis proposed to cease hostilities and rest until morning.

"Nay," said Sir William Erskine; "now is your time to make sure of Washington."

"Oh, no!" replied Cornwallis; "our troops are fatigued and need rest. The old fox can't make his escape now; for, with the Delaware behind him, so filled with floating ice that he cannot cross, we have him completely surrounded. To-morrow morning, fresh and strong, we will fall upon him, and take him and his rag-a-muffins all at once!"

"Ah, my lord!" rejoined Sir William, "if Washington be the soldier that I think he is, you will not see him there to-morrow morning."

The escape of the American army seemed impossible. With a superior force of the British in front, well armed and fresh, and the impossibility of recrossing the Delaware, together with deep mud in the roads, the capture of Washington, to human view, seemed inevitable.

Early in the evening Washington conceived the idea of making a forced march to Princeton during the night, to capture the enemy's stores there, and then push on to Brunswick for additional booty. But then the mud was so deep that such a march would not be possible. While he was thus revolving the matter, the wind suddenly shifted, the clouds broke, and freezing cold weather set in, so that within two hours the ground became solid, and the army could move. Again God proved to the astonished commander-in-chief that He was not always "on the side of the [403]heaviest battalions."

Stirring up his camp-fire anew, and setting a score of shovellers to work within hearing distance of the foe, to deceive him, Washington moved off as quietly as possible to Princeton with his army. There he met a force Cornwallis had left behind, and a desperate battle followed, in which the Americans were victorious.

At first Colonel Mawhood's celebrated regiment charged upon the advance of the American army, driving them back in confusion. But Washington, ever ready for such an emergency, rode to the front, brandishing his sword, and calling upon his men to follow. Placing himself in front, directly facing the foe, he stopped for a moment, as if to say to his army, "Will you suffer the enemy to shoot your general?" They could not resist the appeal, and with a yell they turned and dashed forward, with irresistible might, driving all before them, and the victory was theirs.

Colonel Fitzgerald, one of Washington's aides, was so affected by his commander's daring, that he dropped the reins on his horse's neck and drew his cap over his eyes, that he might not see him shot from his horse. While waiting in this agony of suspense, a shout of triumph rent the air.

"The British are running!"

"The victory is ours!"

The air was rent with the shouts of the victors.

Lifting his cap, and looking for his loved commander, he beheld him, as [404]the smoke of the battle cleared, safe and unharmed, waving his hat and cheering his soldiers on to pursue the foe. Bursting into tears for very joy, he spurred his horse to Washington's side, and exclaimed:

"Thank God, your excellency is safe!"

Grasping the colonel's hand in gladness, Washington answered:

"Away, my dear colonel, and bring up the troops. The day is our own!"

When Cornwallis awoke in the early dawn, he found that his "fox" had escaped.

"That is just what I feared," said Sir William Erskine.

"Where can he have gone?" Cornwallis inquired, almost bewildered by the unexpected revelation.

Just then booming cannon in the distance explained.

"There!" exclaimed Sir William; "There is Washington now, cutting up our troops!"

"Capturing our stores at Brunswick!" shouted Cornwallis in reply, as he took in the situation, and thought what a haul the rebel general would make in capturing the seventy thousand pounds in money, and the vast quantity of arms, ammunition, and stores at Brunswick.

Almost franticly he dashed about to hurry his Army away to the latter place, where he arrived to find everything safe, and himself outwitted [405]again.

The battle of Princeton, though short, was a costly one to the Americans. One general, two colonels, one major, and three captains were killed. From twenty to thirty others were killed and wounded. The British lost one hundred killed and wounded, and three hundred prisoners.

The American general slain was Mercer, whom Washington called "the worthy and brave General Mercer." Early in the conflict his horse was shot under him, and on foot he was attempting to rally his men, when a blow from the butt of a British musket felled him to the ground.

"Call for quarters, you mean rebel!" shouted a British officer.

"I am not a rebel," retorted Mercer; "I am a true soldier of liberty, fighting for his country;" and, as he spoke he thrust his sword at the nearest man.

Then he was bayoneted, and left for dead. He was subsequently borne to the house of a Mr. Clark, where he was nursed until he died, a few days thereafter. Washington supposed that he was killed on the field, until he was on his way to Morristown. On learning that he was still alive, he despatched Major George Lewis with a flag and letter to Cornwallis, requesting that the bearer be allowed to remain with, and nurse, the wounded general. A few days afterwards, Mercer died in the arms of Lewis.

The story spread in the American army that the British bayoneted General Mercer after he gave up his sword. But he said to Major Lewis, who [406]inquired about it: "The tale which you have heard, George, is untrue. My death is owing to myself. I was on foot endeavoring to rally my men, who had given way before the superior discipline of the enemy, when I was brought to the ground by a blow from a musket. At the same moment the enemy discovered my rank, exulted in their having taken the rebel general, as they termed me, and bid me ask for quarters. I felt that I deserved not so opprobrious an epithet, and determined to die, as I had lived, an honored soldier in a just and righteous cause; and without begging my life or making reply, I lunged with my sword at the nearest man. They then bayoneted and left me."

Washington did not pursue the enemy far, nor push on to Brunswick. Most of his troops had been two days and nights without sleep, and they were completely exhausted, so that further engagements without rest were preposterous. He determined to go into winter quarters at Morristown, and marched directly to that place. Stopping at Pluckamin to rest his soldiers for a short time, he wrote to General Putnam:

"The enemy appear to be panic-struck. I am in hopes of driving them out of the Jerseys. Keep a strict watch upon the enemy. A number of horsemen, in the dress of the country, must be kept constantly going backward and forward for this purpose."

Occupying the mountainous region of Morristown, and reinforcing his little army, he harassed the enemy to such an extent that Cornwallis was forced to draw in all his out-posts, so that his land communication with New York was completely cut off.

Hamilton wrote: "The extraordinary spectacle was presented of a powerful army, straitened within narrow limits by the phantom of a military force, and never permitted to transgress those limits with impunity."


The British were driven out of the Jerseys at every point except Amboy and Brunswick, and the remarkable exploit awakened the wonder, and admiration of even our enemies. Everywhere that the achievements of Washington, from Dec. 25, 1776, to Jan. 3, 1777, were made known, his fame was greatly augmented. No such bold and glorious deeds could be found in the annals of military renown. This was the verdict of the country; and from that moment the American cause grew stronger.

From that day to this the battles of Trenton and Princeton, including the crossing and recrossing of the Delaware, have been accorded the brightest pages of history by writers of every age. It is said that Frederick the Great of Prussia declared that the deeds of Washington, in the ten days specified, "were the most brilliant of any in the annals of military achievements."

The Italian historian, Botta, wrote:

"Achievements so stirring gained for the American commander a very great reputation, and were regarded with wonder by all nations, as well as by the Americans. The prudence, constancy, and noble intrepidity of Washington were admired and applauded by all. By unanimous consent, he was declared to be the saviour of his country; all proclaimed him equal to the most renowned commanders of antiquity, and especially distinguished him by the name of the 'American Fabius.' His name was in the mouths of all; he was celebrated by the pens of the most distinguished writers. The most illustrious personages of Europe lavished upon him their praises and their congratulations."

Washington continued in his winter quarters at Morristown until near the [408]close of May. Learning that a British fleet of a hundred transports, bearing eighteen thousand soldiers, had sailed from New York, and suspecting that Philadelphia was the place of its destination, he broke up his camp and marched toward that city. His whole force was but seven thousand three hundred men.

While encamped at Morristown, Washington found that the Lord's Supper would be celebrated by the Presbyterian Church on a certain Sabbath. He called upon the pastor, Dr. Johns, and inquired:

"Does it accord with the canons of your church to admit communicants of another denomination?"

"Most certainly," the doctor answered; "ours is not the Presbyterian table, General Washington, but the Lord's table; and hence we give the Lord's invitation to all His followers, of whatever name."

Washington replied, "I am glad of it; that is as it ought to be; but as I was not quite sure of the fact, I thought I would ascertain it from yourself, as I propose to join with you on that occasion. Though I am a member of the Church of England, I have no exclusive partialities."

He encamped at Middlebrook, ten miles from Brunswick; thence advanced to Coryell Ferry, thirty miles from Philadelphia, where he learned that a British fleet of two hundred and twenty-eight sail had appeared off the capes of Delaware. He marched at once to Germantown, six miles from Philadelphia. Here he could personally superintend the defences of the city by daily visits thither.

One day he dined with several members of Congress, and was introduced to [409]a French nobleman, the Marquis de Lafayette. The latter had heard of the American struggle for liberty, led by the heroic Washington, and, in common with the lovers of freedom in every land, he was charmed by the story. He had an interview with Silas Deane, who was in Paris with Dr. Franklin and Arthur Lee, as commissioners, to consummate alliance with the French, the result of which was his coming to this country.

Washington welcomed Lafayette with genuine cordiality, and on that day commenced a life-long friendship with him.

"We ought to feel embarrassed in presenting ourselves before an officer just from the French army," he said.

"It is to learn, and not to instruct, that I came here," was Lafayette's polite and modest reply.

Lafayette addressed a communication to Congress, in which he said:

"After many sacrifices I have a right to ask two favors: one is to serve at my own expense; the other, to commence serving as a volunteer."

Washington was attracted to Lafayette from the first, and he invited him immediately to a place on his staff.

Lafayette was a remarkable character. He was left an orphan at thirteen years of age, with a large fortune. Being a favorite in the court of Louis, he received a commission in the army at fifteen years of age. He was married at sixteen, and two years later resolved to remove to America and join in fighting the battle of liberty. His purpose becoming known, the government prevented his securing a passage. Determined not [410]to be frustrated in his purpose, he purchased a vessel, and prepared to sail. His arrest being ordered, he escaped to Passage, where he boarded a vessel bound for the West Indies. When fairly under way, fearing that the English colonists in the West Indies might arrest him, he hired the captain to proceed direct to the American coast. Congress commissioned him major-general soon after he joined the American army, the youngest major-general ever known in America, if not in the world. His intimate relations and aid to Washington make this brief notice necessary.


The plan of the British for 1777 was, for General Howe, with twenty thousand men, to land at the head of Elk River, and march north through Philadelphia; while General Burgoyne, starting from Canada with ten thousand men, should march south to meet Howe, rallying both Tories and Indians to his standard.

The militia of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Northern Virginia were called out to defend Philadelphia; and Washington advanced to Wilmington. In order to impress the Tories of Philadelphia, he marched through the city at the head of his column, with Lafayette at his side, making an imposing display that captivated the friends of liberty, and awed the Tories.


It was in this campaign that an officer of the army dined with Washington at his headquarters. Several guests graced the occasion. When, agreeable to the prevailing custom, the general proposed to drink a glass of wine with him, the officer replied, "You will have the goodness to excuse me, as I have made it a rule not to take wine."

The other guests were surprised. They regarded the act as a direct insult to the commander-in-chief. Washington read their feelings in their faces, and he remarked: "Gentlemen, my friend is right; I do not wish any of my guests to partake of anything against their inclination, and I certainly do not wish them to violate any established principle in their social intercourse with me. I honor Mr. —— for his frankness, for his consistency in thus adhering to an established rule which can never do him harm, and for the adoption of which, I have no doubt, he has good and sufficient reasons."

While Washington was watching the British fleet, General Burgoyne was advancing from the north, his Hessian soldiers and Indian allies indulging themselves in terrifying and plundering the defenceless inhabitants. On the 16th of August the battle of Bennington was fought, in which the American troops, under the brave General Stark, won a decisive victory. Stark addressed his troops in words of cheer before going into battle, and closed by saying:

"Now, my men, there are the red-coats. Before night they must be ours, or Molly Stark will be a widow."

Stark captured thirty-two British officers, five hundred and sixty-four privates, four brass field-pieces, a thousand stand of arms, and a large quantity of ammunition.


The moral effect of this victory was grand. The farmers rushed to the American camp, to follow up the victory by surrounding Burgoyne, cutting off his supplies, and driving him to Saratoga.

Washington hailed the victory with great joy, and proclaimed it at the head of his army to inspire his troops to nobler deeds.

Another bloody battle was fought at Fort Schuyler, where the Americans bravely defended and held the fort. The Indians conducted so much like fiends incarnate that even the Hessians were shocked. A Hessian officer wrote:

"These savages are heathen; huge, warlike, and enterprising, but wicked as Satan. Some say they are cannibals, but I do not believe it; though, in their fury, they will tear the flesh of the enemy with their teeth."

A Miss McCrea, daughter of a New Jersey clergyman, was visiting friends at the North. Her lover was a Tory, and he was in the British army, so that she felt no anxiety at the approach of Burgoyne.

Early one morning she was startled by the horrid yells of savages, who had surrounded the house where she was visiting. Before she was scarcely aware of her peril, they burst into the house, in their wild fury, seized her, and bore her away in triumph. While they were disputing as to whom the prize belonged, a drunken chief buried his tomahawk in her head, whereupon she was scalped and left dead upon the ground.

Nine days after the battle of Bennington, Washington learned that General Howe was landing his troops in Elk River, seventy miles from [413]Philadelphia. It was not, however, until the 8th of September that the two armies met, and the battle of Brandywine was fought.

Washington had eleven thousand men, and Howe eighteen thousand. It was a sanguinary contest, in which the Americans were defeated, with a loss of twelve hundred. Lafayette conducted himself with great coolness and bravery, and was wounded by a bullet that passed through his leg.

The consternation in Philadelphia was now appalling. Many of the citizens fled; Congress adjourned to Lancaster; confusion and dismay turned the city into Bedlam.

Washington retreated to Germantown to prepare for another battle. He was beaten, but not dismayed.

Another instance of the providential care over Washington occurred just before the battle of Brandywine. In disguise, accompanied by a single officer in a Hussar dress, he reconnoitered one day. Major Ferguson beheld him at a distance, and, supposing he belonged to the enemy, he ordered three riflemen to steal near to him and fire. But, for some unaccountable reason, he recalled the riflemen before they fired. What was his surprise on the next day to learn that the supposed enemy, whom he would have shot, was his own general, Washington!

Howe could not ascend the Delaware to Philadelphia because it was defended by Forts Mifflin and Mercer. He prepared to attack them.

A large force of British were at Germantown, and on the night of Oct. 2, Washington performed a march of fifteen miles and attacked them. A quick and signal victory perched upon his banners, and the enemy fled in confusion. The victory was turned into defeat, however, by a serious [414]blunder. The British had been driven three miles, leaving tents and baggage behind, and were still on the retreat when in the dense fog, several Jersey and Maryland regiments approaching, were mistaken for British reinforcements. The cry was raised: "We are surrounded and retreat cut off!" whereupon the Americans retreated in confusion.

General Sullivan wrote of Washington in that battle:

"I saw, with great concern, our brave commander-in-chief exposing himself to the hottest fire of the enemy, in such a manner that regard for my country obliged me to ride to him and beg him to retire. He, to gratify me and others, withdrew a short distance; but his anxiety for the fate of the day soon brought him up again, where he remained till our troops had retreated."

At great sacrifice of men and money, the British removed the obstructions from the river, and took possession of Philadelphia.

Dr. Franklin was in Paris when the news reached him, "Howe has taken Philadelphia." "No," replied Franklin, "Philadelphia has taken Howe."

The sequel proved that Franklin had an eye upon the future.

Although the prospect was gloomy in Pennsylvania, glad tidings came to Washington from the north. The Americans completely surrounded Burgoyne's army at Saratoga, so that farther retreat was impossible. On the 16th of October, 1777, after holding a council of war, Burgoyne surrendered to General Gates, remarking:


"The fortune of war has made me your prisoner."

"I shall always be ready to testify that it has not been through any fault of your excellency," Gates replied.

Burgoyne's army was reduced from nine thousand men, to five thousand seven hundred and fifty-two. These prisoners were allowed a free passage to Europe, under the irrevocable condition not to serve again in the British ranks. Seven thousand stand of arms, a large number of tents, a long train of artillery, and a great quantity of clothing and stores fell into the hands of the victors.

The celebrated Polish patriot Kosciusko was chief engineer in Gates' command when Burgoyne was captured.

The British made Philadelphia their winter quarters, where the troops indulged themselves in almost unrestrained revelry. They forced many sympathizers with the American cause to vacate their dwellings for the accommodation of their own number; and many were quartered upon patriotic families, with the express understanding that failure to supply their wants would be resented.

Washington went into winter quarters at Valley Forge, about twenty miles from Philadelphia. The tale of suffering connected with that place during that long, dreary winter, is known to the world.

Arriving there, many of the troops without blankets or shoes, ragged, worn out, and desponding, they were exposed to the snows and blasts of December until they could cut down trees and build their own huts. Two days after encamping, General Huntington reported to Washington:


"My brigade are out of provisions, nor can the commissary obtain any meat."

General Varnum reported:

"Three days successively we have been destitute of bread. Two days we have been entirely without meat." Against his own judgment, in order to prevent mutiny in his army, Washington was forced to forage the country and seize supplies wherever he could find them, paying for them in money, or certificates redeemable by Congress.

Yet we find Washington writing thus:

"For some days past there has been little less than a famine in the camp. A part of the army has been a week without any kind of flesh, and the rest, three or four days. Naked and starving as they are, we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiers, that they have not been ere this excited by their suffering to a general mutiny and desertion."

Sickness and mortality prevailed to an alarming extent among the troops, while scarcely any medicines were at hand. Even scores of horses perished by hunger and the severity of the weather.

One day circumstances drew Washington's attention to a hungry soldier who was on guard. The general had just come from his own table and he said:

"Go to my table and help yourself."


"I can't; I am on guard," the soldier replied. Immediately taking the soldier's gun to play the part of sentinel, Washington said, "Go."

The soldier enjoyed the first square meal he had eaten for two days, and at the same time he learned that his general had true sympathy with the "boys," and that official distinction did not lift him above the humblest of their number.

With his army in such a deplorable condition, and his cannon frozen up and immovable, Washington knew very well that, almost any day, the British might march out of Philadelphia and capture or annihilate his entire command. His anxiety and trouble can be more easily imagined than described.

To add to the trials of that winter, Washington learned of a conspiracy against him, the object of which was to supersede him by General Gates as commander-in-chief. His old friend Dr. Craik wrote to him:

"Notwithstanding your unwearied diligence and the unparalleled sacrifice of domestic happiness and care of mind which you have made for the good of your country, yet you are not wanting in secret enemies, who would rob you of the great and truly deserved esteem your country has for you. Base and villanous men, through chagrin, envy, or ambition, are endeavoring to lessen you in the minds of the people, and taking underhand methods to traduce your character," etc.

Generals Gates, Mifflin, and Conway were engaged in this plot; but their timely and complete exposure redounded to the honor of Washington.


The duel which General Hamilton fought with General Conway, in which the latter was severely wounded, grew out of this affair. Hamilton could not endure the presence of an officer who was secretly plotting against his chief.

In the month of February Mrs. Washington joined her husband at Valley Forge, to share his winter quarters with him, as she had done at Cambridge and Morristown. She wrote to a friend:

"The general's apartment is very small; he has had a log cabin built to dine in, which has made our quarters much more tolerable than they were at first.

"The commander-in-chief shared the privations of the camp with his men. His cabin was like theirs."

The presence of Mrs. Washington at Valley Forge was a blessing to the army. She occupied her time fully in caring for the sick, sewing and mending for the "boys," and making herself generally useful.

Again the commander-in-chief interceded with Congress for more liberal pay for his soldiers. Alluding to the sufferings of his soldiers, he wrote:

"To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lie on, without shoes (for the want of which their marches might be traced by the blood from their feet), and almost as often without provisions as with them, marching through the frost and snow, and at Christmas taking up their winter quarters within a day's march of the enemy, without [419]a house or hut to cover them till it could be built, and submitting without a murmur, is a proof of patience and obedience which, in my opinion, cannot be paralleled."

It was during this memorable winter at Valley Forge that a man by the name of Potts was strolling through the woods, when he heard the sound of a human voice. Cautiously approaching the spot whence the voice proceeded, what was his surprise to discover Washington on his knees engaged in earnest prayer for his country. On returning home, Potts called to his wife, "Sarah, Sarah, all is well. George Washington will triumph!"

"What is the matter now, Isaac? Thee seems moved," Mrs. Potts replied. (They were Quakers.)

"I have this day seen what I never expected to see," Mr. Potts continued. "Thee knows that I have always thought the sword and the gospel utterly inconsistent, and that no man could be a soldier and a Christian at the same time. But George Washington has this day convinced me of my mistake."

He then described the scene he had witnessed, adding:

"If George Washington be not a man of God, I am greatly deceived; and still more shall I be deceived if God does not, through him, work out a great salvation for America."

Baron Steuben, a renowned European general, coming to this country at this juncture to proffer his services, through the influence of Dr. Franklin, Washington induced Congress to commit the reorganization of the army to him. This proved a fortunate arrangement for the future of [420]the army and country, next to the appointment of General Green quarter-master-general.

Previously a distinguished Pole, Thaddeus Kosciusko, who was educated in the military school at Warsaw, had come to him with a letter from Dr. Franklin.

"And what do you seek here?" inquired Washington.

"To fight for American independence," replied Kosciusko.

"What can you do?"

"Try me."

Washington welcomed him heartily, and throughout the Revolution he proved to be an able and faithful ally.

Count Pulaski, another famous general of Poland, had joined the American army at the solicitation of Dr. Franklin, who introduced him by letter to Washington.

Washington had corresponded with the British general respecting an exchange of General Lee and Ethan Allen, but he was unable to effect an exchange until this winter of his trials at Valley Forge. General Prescott, who captured Allen in Canada, ironed him, and sent him to England, was himself captured in the summer of 1777; and Washington proposed to exchange him for General Lee, and Colonel Campbell for Colonel Allen. It was not, however, until near the close of the long dreary winter at Valley Forge that his proposition was accepted. Lee [421]rejoined the army, but Allen returned to his home in Vermont, where he hung up his sword and retired to private life.

In the spring of 1778, the glad news came that an alliance with France was accomplished, and henceforth the struggling Colonies might expect assistance from that country. At the same time a war between France and England was imminent, a calamity that would prove favorable to the patriots of America, since the British Government could not keep its army in Philadelphia and wage a war with France.

Lafayette was instrumental in consummating the alliance with France. For this purpose he left the United States in 1779, and returned in March, 1780. His own country received him with open arms, and honored him by appointing him to one of the highest positions in their army.

In the month of May there were some indications that the enemy were about to evacuate Philadelphia. The news that a French fleet under Count D'Estaing was about to sail to this country, to aid the Colonies in their fight for independence, caused Sir Henry Clinton, who had succeeded Howe in the command of the British army, to fear that he might be blockaded in the Delaware.

"Shall we allow the enemy to leave the city without attacking them?" inquired Washington at the council of war.

"Yes," promptly answered General Lee, just restored to his command. "If they will go, let them go. This army is too weak to attack the British in their stronghold."

"The two armies are now nearly equal in numbers," said Washington, "and experience has so far shown that the British have had nothing to boast [422]whenever they have come in conflict with an equal number of Americans."

"Very true," responded Lee; "but let them evacuate if they will. The risk of a battle is too great to run. I would build a bridge of gold for them if they would retreat over it."

Washington, Lafayette, Wayne, and Cadwalader were the only members of the council who favored an immediate attack. Without deciding the question, Washington requested each one to furnish his opinion in writing. Before this was done, however, the city was evacuated. On the eighteenth day of June the whole British army crossed the Delaware into New Jersey, eleven thousand strong, with an immense baggage and provision train, and marched for New York by way of New Brunswick and Amboy.

The American army was in pursuit as speedily as possible.

"We must compel an engagement," said Washington, eager to give the foe a sound drubbing before it was too late.

"And we must do it as soon as possible," answered Lafayette.

"There is no time to lose, neither," said Greene.

General Lee was opposed to a general engagement.

They were near Monmouth Court-house, and it was the night of June 27.

General Lee had command of the advance, five thousand picked men, and his orders were, "Attack the enemy to-morrow."


At midnight a horseman was galloping up to Washington's headquarters, when the sentinel challenged him.

"Doctor Griffith, chaplain and surgeon in the Virginia line, on business highly important with the commander-in-chief."

"Officer of the guard!" cried the sentinel. That officer appeared. Doctor Griffith repeated his errand.

"Impossible; my orders are positive," replied the guard.

"But I must," persisted the doctor.

"You cannot," repeated the guard. "The commander-in-chief is intensely engaged."

"Present, sir, my humble duty to his excellency, and say that Dr. Griffith waits upon him with secret and important intelligence, and craves an audience of only five minutes duration."

He was soon ushered into Washington's presence.

"The nature of the communication I am about to make to your excellency must be my apology for disturbing you at this hour of the night," observed the doctor. "While I am not permitted to divulge the names of the authorities from which I have obtained my information, I can assure you they are of the very first order, whether in point of character or attachment to the cause of American independence. I have sought this interview to warn your excellency against the conduct of Major-General Lee in to-morrow's battle. My duty is fulfilled, and I go now to pray to [424]the God of battles for success to our arms, and that He may always have your excellency in His holy keeping."

Doctor Griffith retired, and the battle of Monmouth was fought on the next day. Washington, with his aides, was approaching the scene of action, when he met a little fifer boy who archly observed:

"They are all coming this way, your honor."

"Who are coming, my little man?" inquired General Knox.

"Why, our boys, your honor; our boys, and the British right after them," answered the fifer.

"Impossible!" exclaimed Washington, and put spurs to his horse.

Sure enough, he soon met General Lee's advance in full retreat.

"What is the meaning of all this, sir?" he called out to General Lee.

The latter was dumbfounded, and made no reply.

"I demand, sir, to know the reason of this retreat," shouted Washington in a tone of anger.

"By my own order," answered Lee, vexed by the commander's sharp address.

"Go to the rear, you cowardly poltroon!" shouted Washington, thoroughly aroused and indignant over the conduct of the officer.


At that juncture, his favorite aid, Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton, leaped from his horse and, drawing his sword, addressed the general:

"We are betrayed! Your excellency and the army are betrayed! And the time has come when every true friend of America and her cause must be ready to die in their defence!"

Under the magic influence of the commander-in-chief the retreat was speedily arrested, and one of the most glorious victories of the Revolution achieved.

Washington was almost ubiquitous in his exertions, and his noble white charger galloped over the battlefield, utterly regardless of danger, until the splendid beast sank under the excessive heat, and died. Immediately the general mounted another war-horse of equal spirit, and, brandishing his sword high in the air, called to the troops:

"Stand fast, my boys, and receive your enemy! The Southern troops are advancing to support you!"

On the evening before, the officers drew up a memorial to Washington, entreating him not to expose himself in battle, as he did at Princeton, Trenton, and other places. Dr. Craik, who was present, remarked:

"It will not have the weight of a feather with him." Then referring to the Indian chief's prophecy on the banks of the Ohio, "The Great Spirit protects him; he cannot be shot in battle," he added, "I believe it."

In the bloody contest of the next day, a round shot from the British artillery ploughed the ground directly in front of the general, throwing [426]up a cloud of dirt over his person.

"Dat wash very near!" exclaimed Baron Stuben. Dr. Craik and several of the officers who were together on the previous evening were witnesses. Pleased by this remarkable confirmation of his faith in the Indian's prophecy, Dr. Craik smiled and, without uttering a word, pointed his finger towards heaven, as much as to say, "The Great Spirit protects him."

At the close of the day the battle-ground was in possession of the Americans. Washington's orders were to attack the foe again as soon as they began to move in the morning. But in the morning no enemy could be found; they had silently retreated during the night.

The Americans lost two hundred and twenty killed and wounded; and the British two hundred and fifty, and one hundred prisoners.

Major-General Lee was court-martialed for his conduct on the field of Monmouth, and was suspended from all command for one year. Many believed that he was an arch-traitor, who deserved a halter, although the evidence of it was not then conclusive. But eighty years thereafter (in 1858), papers were discovered in Lee's handwriting, in which he communicated to Lord and Sir William Howe, while he was a prisoner in New York, a plan for subjugating the Colonies. The only explanation of his conduct, after the fall of Fort Washington, is found in his treasonable designs. He never returned to the service.

On the 13th of July Washington received news of the arrival of the French fleet, consisting of twelve ships of the line and six frigates, and four thousand men for a land force. Immediate consultation with the [427]commander, Count D'Estaing, led him to cross the Hudson and establish his army at White Plains.

Rhode Island was in the possession of the British, and Washington proposed to recover it by the united action of his army and the French fleet. After several weeks of rough campaigning, Washington was compelled to abandon his purpose, because the eccentric D'Estaing resolved to take his fleet to Boston for rest and repairs.

For the winter of 1778-'79 he stationed his army in cantonments from Long Island Sound to the Delaware, while his own headquarters were near Middlebrook. This arrangement was designed to protect the country and watch the enemy.

The next year, 1779, the enemy carried on a predatory war, striking here and there with detachments of troops, plundering, burning, and ravaging the neighborhood. Washington was fully occupied in repulsing the enemy engaged in this sort of warfare.

As illustration of the cruel measures adopted by the British commander, an expedition was sent to Connecticut; they captured the fort at New Haven, destroyed all the vessels in the harbor, with all the artillery, ammunition, and stores, and plundered several private houses. They burned the town of Fairfield, destroying ninety-seven dwelling houses, sixty-seven barns and stables, forty-eight store-houses, three places of worship, two school-houses, a court-house, a jail, and all the vessels and public stores they could lay their hands on. Norwalk was also burned in the same ruthless manner; and the depredations extended into Massachusetts, injuring or destroying such towns as offered good harbors for privateers.


Exasperated by the reluctance of the Tories to flock to the British standard, and the numerous desertions of English and Germans from his army, King George sent his emissaries to instigate the savages of the Mohawk to plunder and butchery. The terrible massacres of Cherry Valley and Wyoming, in which hundreds of men, women, and children were remorselessly slaughtered, and their habitations committed to the flames, followed. The brutality of those scenes are known to the world, because they are matters of history.

Some of the ablest statesmen of England fearlessly denounced the king and his court for prosecuting a war with such barbarity. Lord Chatham declared:

"Were I an American as I am an Englishman, I would never lay down my arms: never, never, NEVER!"

The king and his court maintained, however, that they were justified in resorting to any measures to subdue American rebels.

Two remarkable expeditions which Washington organized that year were those which captured Stoney Point, under General Wayne; and Paulus Hook, under Major Henry Lee. These grand achievements inspirited the American army, and did much to convince the British that they were engaged in a fruitless attempt to reduce the Colonies to their domination.

As winter approached, the French fleet, which sailed from Boston to the West Indies, appeared off the Southern coast, to co-operate with General Lincoln, who commanded the Southern Department. On this account the British commander was compelled to operate in that direction.


Washington, whose headquarters had been at West Point for several months, went into winter quarters at Morristown, where the experience of Valley Forge was repeated with additional rigor.

The cruel treatment of Americans captured by the British had long engaged Washington's attention, and reference to it here is in point. Many of their prisoners were confined in old ships, where they suffered all that hunger, thirst, filth, and abuse could inflict. On account of the dreadful sufferings endured by the prisoners, these ships were called "floating hells."

The "Jersey Prison Ship" and the old "Sugar House," converted into prisons by Lord Howe, are notorious for their infamous character in American history. Congress appealed in vain to the commanding British general, and Washington wrote to him upon the subject again and again. In one letter Washington said:

"From the opinion I have ever been taught to entertain of your lordship's humanity, I will not suppose that you are privy to proceedings of so cruel and unjustifiable a nature; and I hope that, upon making the proper inquiry, you will have the matter so regulated that the unhappy persons whose lot is captivity may not in the future have the miseries of cold, disease, and famine added to their other misfortunes.... I should not have said thus much, but my injured countrymen have long called upon me to endeavor to obtain a redress of their grievances, and I should think myself as culpable as those who inflict such severities upon them were I to continue silent."

A Rev. Mr. Andros of Massachusetts was confined in the "Jersey Prison Ship." After his escape and the close of the war, he published a small [430]book detailing the sufferings of its occupants. One brief paragraph therefrom is all our space will permit.

"Her dark and filthy exterior corresponded with the death and despair reigning within. It is supposed that eleven thousand American seaman perished in her. None came to relieve their woes. Once or twice, by order of a stranger on the quarter-deck a bag of apples was hurled promiscuously into the midst of hundreds of prisoners, crowded as thick as they could stand, and life and limb were endangered in the struggle. The prisoners were secured between the decks by iron gratings; and when the ship was to be cleared of watch, an armed guard forced them up to the winches, amid a roar of execrations and reproaches, the dim light adding to the horrors of the scene. Thousands died whose names have never been known, perishing when no eye could witness their fortitude, nor praise their devotion to their country."

The brave Lingan, hero of Fort Washington, was confined in the "Jersey;" and it was amid the horrors around him that he exclaimed:

"Sweet, O my country, should be thy liberties, when they are purchased at this monstrous price!"

Custis relates that one day, when a coffin was brought in which proved too short for the dead comrade, and it was proposed to cut off his head in order to adapt the body to the receptacle, Lingan "sprang from his couch of pain, and, laying his hand upon the lifeless corpse of the departed soldier, swore he would destroy the first man who should thus mutilate the body of his friend."



The treason of Arnold in 1780 contributed, on the whole, to the fidelity of the army in 1781. The poorest soldier in the ranks scorned "to become an Arnold."

Washington placed Arnold in command at West Point in 1780. Arnold had long been interceding for the position, and it was found subsequently that he had been in treasonable correspondence with the British commander fifteen months when he assumed command of that post. The correspondence was commenced voluntarily by Arnold, and was conducted on the part of Sir Henry Clinton by his aid, Major John André, under the signature of John Anderson.

General Arnold was harassed by burdensome debts. He was a gambler, too, and, of course, devoid of moral principle. His object was to pay his debts with British gold.

His correspondence ripened into a plan by Arnold to deliver West Point into the hands of the British, for which purpose a midnight meeting was arranged between him and Major André. The meeting occurred at Dobb's Ferry, when Arnold delivered to André a plan of the works at West Point, together with a plan of attack by the British, when the post would be surrendered on the ground that the American troops were too few to hold it. The papers were concealed in André's stockings.


On his return, even after he had passed the American lines, three patriotic representatives of the New York yeomanry, John Paulding, Isaac Van Wart, and David Williams, stopped him, the first aiming his musket at his head.

"Gentlemen, I hope you belong to our party," said André with as much composure as he could command.

"What party?" responded Paulding.

"The lower party," replied André.

"We do," they said.

"I am a British officer, and have been up the country on particular business," continued André, now feeling that he was among friends. He was deceived by the dress which Paulding wore,—that of a refugee. Paulding had been a prisoner in the hands of the British, confined in that terrible prison known as the "Sugar House." He was released only four days before. In that place his citizen's suit was taken from him, and replaced by the refugee garb, so that the barbarity of André's countrymen became the cause of his detection.

"I must not be detained for a moment," continued André, taking out his gold watch, the sight of which showed to his captors that he was a man of consequence.

"We are Americans, and you are our prisoner!" exclaimed Paulding.

André was astounded by this revelation, and he was ready to pay any [433]amount of money to his captors if they would let him go.

"Dismount!" shouted Paulding, seizing his horse's bridle.

"Beware, gentlemen, or you will get yourselves into trouble," replied André.

"We will take care of that," retorted Paulding. "Any letters about you?"


"We'll find out about that," said Paulding; and they proceeded to search him. Finding nothing of a suspicious character about his clothes, they were disposed to let him proceed, when Paulding said:

"Boys, I am not satisfied; his boots must come off."

His boots were drawn off, and the concealed papers were found in his stockings.

"My God!" exclaimed Paulding, "he is a spy."

They conducted their prisoner to North Castle, and he was finally hung as a spy.

Arnold escaped to a British man-of-war, and figured thereafter as a general in the king's army, despised even by those who commissioned him.

Near the close of the winter of 1781, and through the spring, the enemy committed many depredations on our coast, in which Arnold played a conspicuous part. In Virginia and Connecticut his command wantonly [434]destroyed a large amount of property. New London was burned under his generalship. Washington employed every means possible to capture the traitor, but in vain.

The British directed their chief efforts against the South, designing to spread consternation by their terrible ravages. Richmond was laid in ashes. Along the shores of the Potomac and Chesapeake they plundered and burned. They threatened to destroy Washington's home at Mount Vernon, and landed for the purpose of applying the torch to every building. The agent, Lund Washington, saved the property from destruction by furnishing the enemy with a large quantity of supplies. When the general heard what his agent had done, he wrote to him as follows:

"I am very sorry to hear of your loss; I am a little sorry to hear of my own; but that which gives me most concern is, that you should go on board the enemy's vessels, and furnish them with refreshments. It would have been a less painful circumstance to me to have heard that, in consequence of your non-compliance with their request, they had burnt my house and laid the plantation in ruins."

In July, 1781, Washington planned an attack upon New York by the combined French and American forces. But his purpose was suddenly changed by hearing that the portion of the French fleet at the West Indies, under Count de Grasse, had sailed for the Chesapeake. Cornwallis was at Yorktown with his command, and his capture would give the Americans an illustrious prisoner. General Lafayette, who had returned from France, was in Virginia, looking after the British general as well as he could.


Immediately Washington put his army in motion for Virginia, leaving only troops enough to guard the passes of the Hudson. He marched directly for Williamsburg, to join Lafayette. On his way he called at Mount Vernon, from which he had been absent six years. "Here, unannounced, he darted into his home, like the first sunbeam after a storm, only to disappear again under as black a cloud as any of those that had brought the thunder. He had come but to tell his wife that he was on his way to seek a battle, an unequal though glorious contest, from which he might never return."

Washington joined Lafayette at Williamsburg on the 14th of September. Hastily arranging the siege of Yorktown, Cornwallis was surprised, one bright morning, to find that the heights around him were swarming with American soldiers, and the bay in front securely occupied by the French fleet.

On the 6th of October the bombardment of the British works commenced with terrible earnestness. An eye witness said:

"General Washington put the match to the first gun, and a terrible discharge of cannon and mortars immediately followed."

"What part of the town can be most effectively cannonaded?" Washington inquired of Governor Nelson, who was present.

Pointing to a large, fine house on an eminence, the governor replied:

"That is probably the headquarters of the enemy; fire at that."

It was Governor Nelson's own residence.


Four days the cannonading continued with great effect. At the expiration of that time, Washington ordered the capture of two redoubts, lying between him and the British works. These redoubts were so near as to prove a great annoyance to the American troops. To the Americans was assigned the capture of one, and to the French the capture of the other. At the point of the bayonet these redoubts were taken; not a gun was fired. As soon as Lafayette held possession of the redoubt taken by the Americans, he despatched a message to Baron de Viomenil announcing the fact, and inquired where the baron was.

"Tell the marquis," answered the baron, "that I am not in mine, but I will be in five minutes;" and he was.

During the whole of the bombardment, Washington, as usual, was seen in the most exposed positions, cheering his men and directing the assault. One day, as he stood beside the grand battery with Knox and Lincoln, and shot and shell flew around him, one of his aides, anxious for his general's safety, remarked:

"That is a very exposed situation, general."

"If you think so, you are at liberty to step back," Washington promptly answered.

Just then a musket ball struck the cannon in the embrasure, rolled along, and fell at the general's feet.

"My dear general, we can't spare you yet," exclaimed General Knox, grasping Washington's arm.


"Only a spent ball," responded Washington coolly; "no harm was done."

On the 17th of October Cornwallis sent a flag, with a letter, to Washington, asking for a cessation of hostilities twenty-four hours, that consultation might be had respecting terms of surrender. It was not, however, until the 19th that the terms of capitulation were agreed upon, and the renowned Cornwallis with his army became Washington's prisoners.

The time and method of the formal surrender being agreed upon, Washington warned his troops against any exultant demonstrations that might wound the feelings of the conquered.

"My brave fellows," he said, "let no sensation of satisfaction for the triumphs you have gained induce you to insult your fallen enemy. Let no shouting, no clamorous huzzaing, increase their mortification. Posterity will huzza for us."

By the surrender of Cornwallis, Washington received over seven thousand prisoners, and one hundred and sixty pieces of cannon. Counting the sailors, negroes, and Tories who became prisoners, the whole number amounted to nearly twelve thousand.

Thatcher describes the scene of the formal surrender as follows:

"About two o'clock the garrison sallied forth, and marched between the two columns (the Americans on one side and the French on the other) with slow and solemn steps, colors cased, and drums beating a British march. They were all well clad, having been furnished with new suits prior to the capitulation. They were led by General O'Hara on horseback, who, riding up t[438]o General Washington, took off his hat and apologized for the non-appearance of Lord Cornwallis, on account of indisposition. Washington received him with dignified courtesy, but pointed to Major-General Lincoln as the officer who was to receive the submission of the garrison. By him they were conducted into a field where they were to ground their arms. In passing through the line formed by the allied army, their march was careless and irregular, and their aspect sullen. The order to "ground arms" was given by their platoon officers with a tone of deep chagrin, and many of the soldiers threw down their muskets with a violence sufficient to break them. This irregularity was checked by General Lincoln; yet it was inexcusable in brave men in their unfortunate predicament. The ceremony over, they were conducted back to Yorktown, to remain under guard until removed to their places of destination."

There were twenty-eight stand of colors to be delivered up. Twenty-eight British captains, each bearing a flag, were drawn up in line. Opposite to them, twenty-eight American sergeants were placed to receive the colors. At a given signal the colors were surrendered.

The next day Washington addressed his army in words of gratulation and tender regard. He issued the following order, also, to the army:


"Divine service is to be performed to-morrow in the several brigades and divisions. The commander-in-chief earnestly recommends that the troops not on duty shall universally attend, with that seriousness of deportment and gratitude of heart which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing interpositions of Providence demand of us."

In the midst of this rejoicing, Washington received the sad intelligence that his step-son, John Parke Custis, was lying at the point of death. Mr. Custis accompanied his mother, Mrs. Washington, to Cambridge, the first winter of the Revolution, and became one of her husband's aides. He was taken sick after the army invested Yorktown, and no hope of his recovery was entertained. He longed to live, however, to witness the surrender of Cornwallis. On the day of the ceremony of capitulation, he was taken from his bed and conveyed to the place, where he might behold the scene. The ceremony over, he was willing to be conveyed to Elthain, where he was taken immediately. Within thirty hours thereafter, the message came to the general that Custis was in a dying condition.

At midnight Washington, accompanied by a single officer and groom, started on horseback for Elthain. By rapid riding he reached there in the morning twilight.

"Is there no hope?" he said to Dr. Craik, who met him at the door.

The doctor shook his head. Bursting into tears, Washington stepped into an adjoining room to indulge his grief, requesting to be left alone. While bowed in sorrow there, Custis expired.

On entering the chamber of death, Washington lovingly embraced the weeping wife and mother, now a widow, tears responding to tears, his deep sorrow showing how dearly he loved the departed one.

When he was able to control his grief, he turned to the group of sorrowing friends, and said:


"From this moment I adopt his two youngest children as my own."

His presence being demanded at Yorktown, without rest or refreshment he mounted a fresh horse, and returned thither before his absence was known, except to some of his aides.

It deserves to be recorded that the capture of Cornwallis could not have been accomplished without the co-operation of the French fleet; so that the reader has before him the remarkable fact that, in Washington's early military career, he joined the English to conquer the French, while in his closing military life, twenty-five years thereafter, he joined the French to conquer the English.

Another example of the divine blessing upon small battalions was furnished by the surrender at Yorktown. Cornwallis planned, during the siege, to withdraw his troops over the river in sixteen large boats, which he collected for the purpose, and, having reached Gloucester Point, escape to New York. On the night arranged for the flight, a violent storm arose, so that it was impossible for him to cross the river. That was his last, lost opportunity. Divine Providence thwarted his purpose, and gave victory to American arms.

In the siege of Yorktown Washington rode a splendid sorrel charger, white-faced and white-footed, named Nelson, and "remarkable as the first nicked horse seen in America." The general cherished this fine animal with strong affection. "This famous charger died at Mount Vernon many years after the Revolution at a very advanced age. After the chief had ceased to mount him, he was never ridden, but grazed in a paddock in summer, and was well cared for in winter; and as often as the retired farmer of Mount Vernon would be making a tour of his grounds, he would halt at the paddock, when the old war-horse would run, neighing, to the [441]fence, proud to be caressed by the great master's hand."

No sooner did Cornwallis surrender than the commander-in-chief despatched a courier on horseback to Philadelphia, to bear the glad tidings to Congress. It was past midnight when the courier reached the city, and the night watchmen, on their respective beats, had just cried, "Twelve o'clock and all is well!"

They caught the glad news with joy, and the next hour they cried:

"One o'clock, and Cornwallis is taken!"

Wakeful citizens in bed could scarcely believe their ears. They started up, and listened. Again the joyful tidings were repeated:

"Cornwallis is taken!"

Hundreds sprang from their beds in wild delight. Lights began to appear in the dwellings, darting from room to room. Soon men and women rushed from their habitations into the streets in the greatest excitement. Some were half dressed, scarcely knowing, in their exuberance of joy, whether they were in the flesh or out. Many wept to hear the news confirmed, and as many laughed. Not a few caught up the watchmen's cry, and ran from street to street, announcing, at the top of their voices:

"Cornwallis is taken! Cornwallis is taken!"

Every minute added to the throng in the streets; men, women, and children joining in the exhilarating exercise of sounding out their excessive delight upon the night air. Neighbors clasped hands and embraced each other to express their gladness. Many were too full for [442]utterance; they broke down in tears with their first attempt to join in the general acclaim. Such a varied, impulsive, uncontrollable expression of joy was never before witnessed in that city.

Soon the bell on the old State-House rang out its gladsome peals, the same old bell that signalled the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. Other bells, one after another, united in the grand chorus of jubilation, supplemented by the thunder of artillery from the fortifications about the city, until every method of expressing real joy seemed to combine, as if by magical art.

At an early hour on the next morning Congress convened, and listened to the reading of Washington's letter, announcing the surrender of Cornwallis. The scene can be better imagined than described. That body was quite unfitted for the transaction of any business, except that which eulogized the commander-in-chief, and the brave men who had fought the battles of the country. Irving says:

"Congress gave way to transports of joy. Thanks were voted to the commander-in-chief, to the Counts De Rochambeau and De Grasse, to the officers of the allied armies generally, and to the corps of artillery and engineers especially. Two stands of colors, trophies of the capitulation, were voted to Washington; two pieces of field ordnance to De Rochambeau and De Grasse; and it was decreed that a marble column, commemorative of the alliance between France and the United States, and of the victory achieved by their associated arms, should be erected in Yorktown."

Finally, Congress issued a proclamation, appointing a day for general [443]thanksgiving and prayer, in acknowledgment of this signal interposition of Divine Providence.

This done, Congress adjourned to assemble, at a later hour, in a public house of worship, there to join, with the grateful multitude, in praise and thanksgiving to God for His blessing upon the cause of liberty.

When the news of Cornwallis' surrender reached England, the disappointment and chagrin were well-nigh universal. The British ministry were astounded by the unexpected tidings. Lord Germain announced the fact to Lord North.

"And how did he take it?" inquired a public man.

"As he would have taken a ball in the breast," replied Germain.

"What did he say?"

"He opened his arms and exclaimed wildly, as he paced up and down the apartment, 'O God, it is all over!'"

As soon as Washington could leave he retired to Mount Vernon for a few days, from which place he wrote to General Greene:

"I shall remain but a few days here, and shall proceed to Philadelphia, when I shall attempt to stimulate Congress to the best improvement of our late success by taking the most vigorous and effectual measures to be ready for an early and decisive campaign the next year. My greatest fear is that Congress, viewing this stroke in too important a point of light, may think our work too nearly closed, and will fall into a state o[444]f languor and relaxation. To prevent the error, I shall employ every means in my power; and if, unhappily, we sink into that fatal mistake, no part of the blame shall be mine."

To another he wrote:

"The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations."


"Now we must follow up this grand victory with harder blows," remarked Washington to Lafayette.

"Then you do not believe the war is ended yet?" Lafayette replied inquiringly.

"Of course not. The king will not yield to 'rebels' so willingly as that. We must concentrate our entire force upon New York now."

"Every lover of his country ought to be stimulated to greater deeds now," added Lafayette.


"And Congress ought to respond promptly and liberally to the demands of the hour," said Washington. "The legislatures of the several Colonies ought to be prompt and liberal, also, in providing men and means. Give us men and supplies equal to the emergency, and our independence can be permanently established."

Washington waited upon Congress personally, and he wrote letters to the governors of the several Colonies, pleading for more liberal aid than ever, that the war might be successfully prosecuted to the bitter end.

While these negotiations were progressing, the king superseded Sir Henry Clinton by the appointment of Sir Guy Carleton as commander-in-chief of the British army. The latter commander was in favor of peace, and he appealed to the British Parliament for conciliatory action; nor was his plea in vain. After a long and acrimonious struggle, Parliament adopted a resolution advising reconciliation. From that moment, peace negotiations were commenced, but were not fully consummated until Nov. 30, 1782, at Paris. It was the nineteenth day of April, 1783, when the welcome news, received in this country, was announced to the army.

The surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, contrary to the expectations of Washington, thus proved to be the end of the war. In just eight years from the time the first battle of the Revolution was fought at Lexington, April 19, 1775, the proclamation of peace was made to the army. "Thus ended a long and arduous conflict, in which Great Britain expended near a hundred millions of money, with a hundred thousand lives, and won nothing. America endured every cruelty and distress, lost many lives and much treasure, but delivered herself from a foreign dominion, and gained a rank among the nations of the earth."


The enemy evacuated New York and other posts and returned to England, and Washington occupied the same, and proceeded to disband the army. Addressing his officers and companions in arms, with deep emotion he said:

"With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former have been glorious and honorable. I cannot come to each of you to take my leave, but shall be obliged if each of you will come and take me by the hand."

He could say no more. Tears blinded his eyes, and emotion caused his voice to tremble. Silently, one after another, these heroes of many battles and sufferings approached and grasped his hand. No one spoke a word. Each felt more than language could express. The scene was affecting beyond description.

Congress was in session at Annapolis, and thither he journeyed to return his commission. A perfect ovation attended him all the way. The occupants of every town, village, and farmhouse turned out to hail the conqueror. Men, women, and children vied with each other in demonstrations of love and honor. Cannon pealed, bells rung, music wafted, voices sounded, banners waved, in honor "of the only man," as Jefferson said, "who had the confidence of all."

Congress received him in a manner to attest their profoundest respect and love. Resigning his commission, he said:

"Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from th[447]e great theatre of action, and, bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life."

Our American Cincinnatus retired to his farm and plough, which he left eight years before at the call of his country. He designed to spend the remainder of his days in retirement at Mount Vernon. His large estates demanded his attention, and his tastes for agricultural pursuits adapted him to the situation.

Under his careful and efficient supervision, his Mount Vernon estate rapidly improved. He enlarged his house, so that he might accommodate the numerous distinguished visitors who now paid him their respects. He studied agriculture by consulting the best authorities, doing it not alone for the purpose of improving his own estates, but also to aid his newly emancipated country in developing its resources.

He lent his great influence to educational and religious enterprises, so essential to the stability and progress of the free and independent Colonies. Through his influence, two companies were organized to extend the navigation of the James and Potomac rivers. Grateful for his aid in creating enterprises of so great public benefit, the General Assembly presented him with one hundred and fifty shares of the stock, worth fifty thousand dollars. He declined to accept the large gift, saying:

"What will the world think if they should hear that I have taken fifty thousand dollars for this affair? Will they not suspect, on my next proposition, that money is my motive? Thus for the sake of money, which, indeed, I never coveted from my country, I may lose the power to do her some service, which may be wort[448]h more than all money."

He assured the Assembly that if they would contribute the amount for a national university in what is now the District of Columbia, and a literary institution in Rockbridge County, since called Washington College, he should esteem their gift even more than he would were he to accept and devote it to his own private use; and they complied with his wishes.

As before the war, he continued to remember the poor, whose veneration for him was greater than ever. His methods of assisting them were often original, and always practical; as, for example, keeping a boat on the Potomac for their use in fishing. Here was an opportunity for them to obtain subsistence without sacrificing the virtues of industry and self-reliance.

Mr. Peake, who had charge of one of his plantations, said:

"I had orders to fill a corn-house every year for the sole use of the poor in my neighborhood, to whom it was a seasonable and most precious relief, saving numbers of poor women and children from miserable famine, and blessing them with a cheerful plenteousness of bread."

One year, when there was a scarcity of corn, and the price of it went up to a dollar per bushel, the suffering among the poor was much increased. Washington ordered his agent to distribute all that could be spared from the granaries, and he purchased several hundred bushels in addition, at the high price, to be used in charity.


Governor Johnson of Maryland, a hero of '76, related the following incident to Mr. Weems:

The governor went to the Virginia Springs for his health. The place was crowded with people, but he secured "a mattress in the hut of a very honest baker" whom he knew. The baker did a large business, and every day Mr. Johnson noticed that many poor negroes came for loaves, and took them away without paying a cent.

"Stophel," said Mr. Johnson one day, "you seem to sell a world of bread here every day, but notwithstanding that, I fear you don't gain much by it."

"What makes you think so?" replied Stophel.

"You credit too much."

"Not I, indeed, sir; I don't credit at all."

"Ay, how do you make that out? Don't I see the poor people every day carrying away your bread, and yet paying you nothing?"

"Pshaw! what of that? They will pay me all in a lump at last."

"At last!" exclaimed the governor, "at the last day, I suppose. You think the Almighty will stand paymaster, and wipe off all your old scores for you at a dash."

"Not by any means, squire. The poor bakers can't give such long credit; but I will tell you how we work the matter. Washingto[450]n directed me to supply these poor people at his expense, and I do it. Believe me, squire, he has often, at the end of the season, paid me as much as eighty dollars, and that, too, for poor creatures who did not know the hand that fed them; for I had strict orders from him not to mention it to anybody."

In a former chapter we learned the magnanimity of his conduct towards one Payne, who knocked him down for a supposed insult. Mr. Payne relates that after the Revolution he called upon Washington at Mount Vernon.

"As I drew near the house," he says, "I began to experience a rising fear lest he should call to mind the blow I had given him in former days. Washington met me at the door with a kind welcome, and conducted me into an adjoining room where Mrs. Washington sat.

"'Here, my dear,' said he, presenting me to his lady, 'here is the little man you have so often heard me talk of, and who, on a difference between us one day, had the resolution to knock me down, big as I am; I know you will honor him as he deserves, for I assure you he has the heart of a true Virginian.'"

Mr. Payne adds: "He said this with an air which convinced me that his long familiarity with war had not robbed him of his nobleness of heart. And Mrs. Washington looked at him as if he appeared to her greater and lovelier than ever."

The same industry distinguished him on his return to his farms, for which he was so well known before the war. His rule was to rise at four o'clock and retire at nine. The forenoon was employed in labor and overseeing the work on his plantations. The presence of company did not [451]interrupt his systematic methods. He would say to such:

"Gentlemen, I must beg leave of absence this forenoon. Here are books, music, and amusements; consider yourselves at home, and be happy."

But Washington was not allowed to remain long in private life. In 1787, a convention assembled in Philadelphia to form a confederacy of States. Washington was a member of that body, and was unanimously made its presiding officer. The convention sat four months, in which time the confederacy of States was consummated, called the United States, with the present Constitution essentially.

This new order of things required the election of a president, and Washington was unanimously elected. He was inaugurated on the thirtieth day of April, 1789, in the city of New York, then the seat of government. That the position was not one of his own seeking is quite evident from a letter which he wrote to General Knox:

"My movements to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution, so unwilling am I, in the evening of life, nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an ocean of difficulties, without the competency of political skill, abilities, and inclinations which are necessary to manage the helm."

His journey to New York was accomplished in his own carriage, drawn by four horses. No king or conqueror was ever treated to a more enthusiastic ovation than was he from Mount Vernon to New York. The expression of a lad to his father indicates the exalted notions which [452]the common people entertained of the great general. On getting a good view of him the lad exclaimed:

"Why, pa, he is only a man, after all!"

At Trenton, where he crossed the Delaware with his retreating, depleted army, his welcome was both imposing and beautiful. Upon the bridge an arch was erected, adorned with laurel leaves and flowers. Upon the crown of the arch, formed of leaves and flowers, were the words:

"December 26th, 1776."

Beneath was the sentence:

"The Defender of the Mothers will be the
Protector of the Daughters!

The president was obliged to pass under this arch to enter Trenton, where the female portion of the population met him. On one side little girls dressed in white stood, each one bearing a basket of flowers. On the other side were arranged the young ladies, and behind them the married women. The moment Washington and his suit approached the arch, the girls scattered their flowers before him, and the whole company of females sung the following ode, written for the occasion by Governor Howell:

"Welcome, mighty chief! once more
Welcome to this grateful shore!
Now no mercenary foe
Aims again the fatal blow.
[453]Aims at thee the fatal blow.
Virgins fair and matrons grave,
Those thy conquering arm did save,
Build for thee triumphal bowers.
Strew, ye fair, his way with flowers!
Strew your hero's way with flowers!"

The reader may well suppose that his reception in New York as the first President of the United States, and the "greatest general on earth," as many supposed, was grand indeed. No expense or pains were spared to make it worthy of the occasion.

Washington called to his cabinet, Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State; Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury; General Knox, Secretary of War; Edmund Randolph, Attorney-General; and John Jay, Chief Justice.

He said, in his inaugural address:

"When I contemplate the interposition of Providence, as it was visibly manifested in guiding us through the Revolution, in preparing us for the reception of a general government, and in conciliating the good will of the people of America towards one another after its adoption, I feel myself oppressed and almost overwhelmed with a sense of the divine munificence. I feel that nothing is due to my personal agency in all those complicated and wonderful events, except what can simply be attributed to the exertions of an honest zeal for the good of my country."

The parade and pomp attending the first presidency in New York City exceeded anything of the kind we behold at the present day. Considering [454]the condition of the country, as compared with its wealth and prominence now, the style of living and display in presidential circles was remarkable. Washington rode in a chariot drawn by six fine horses, attended by a retinue of servants. These horses were expensively caparisoned. His stable, under the charge of Bishop, his favorite servant, held twelve of the finest horses in the country. Two of them were splendid white chargers for the saddle. After the seat of government was removed to Philadelphia, the stables were under the care of German John, "and the grooming of the white chargers will rather surprise the moderns." Mr. Custis says:

"The night before the horses were to appear on the street, they were covered over with a paste, of which whiting was the principal component part; then the animals were swathed in body-cloths, and left to sleep upon clean straw. In the morning the composition had become hard, was well rubbed in and curried and brushed, which process gave to the coats a beautiful, glossy, and satin-like appearance. The hoofs were then blacked and polished, the mouths washed, teeth picked and cleansed, and the leopard-skin housings being properly adjusted, the white chargers were led out for service."

While the seat of government was in New York the president visited the New England States. He had been brought almost to the door of death by a malignant carbuncle, and it was thought, on his recovery, that such a tour would be beneficial. Besides, the people of New England were clamorous to see him.

The sickness referred to confined him to his room six weeks, during which time "Dr. Bard never quitted him." The public anxiety was very [455]great, and the president understood full well that his condition was very critical. One day he said to the doctor:

"I want your candid opinion as to the probable termination of this sickness."

"Your condition is serious, but I expect that you will recover," Dr. Bard replied.

"Do not flatter me with vain hopes," responded the president. "I am not afraid to die, and I am prepared to hear the worst."

"I confess, Mr. President, that I am not without serious apprehensions," added the doctor.

"Whether to-night or twenty years hence makes no difference; I know that I am in the hands of a good Providence," was the royal answer of the Christian ruler.

His tour through the New England States was attended with every demonstration of honor that love and confidence could devise. At Boston the president's well-known punctuality set aside all conventional rules, and asserted its superiority. A company of cavalry volunteered to escort him to Salem. The time appointed to start was 8 o'clock in the morning. When the Old South clock struck the hour, the escort had not appeared; nevertheless Washington started, and reached Charles River bridge before the cavalry overtook him. The commander of the cavalry once belonged to Washington's "military family," and the latter turned to him and said:

"Major, I thought you had been too long in my family not to kno[456]w when it was eight o'clock."

At Philadelphia, to which place the seat of government was removed in 1790, the president frequently entertained members of Congress at his own table. They soon learned that there was no waiting for guests in his mansion. Precisely at the hour, Washington took his seat at the table, whether guests had arrived or not. One day a member came in ten minutes after the family were seated at the dining table. The president greeted him with the remark: "We are punctual here."

He arranged with a gentleman to meet him with reference to the purchase of a pair of horses. He named the hour. The owner of the horses was ten minutes behind the time, and he found the president engaged with other parties. It was a whole week before he was able to see the president again. The latter taught the dilatory man an important lesson.

At Philadelphia, a house belonging to Robert Morris, the national financier, was rented, and converted into a presidential mansion as imposing and elegant, for that day, as the "White House" at Washington is for our day. It was not contemplated to make Philadelphia the permanent seat of government. Washington thought the capital should be located on the Potomac, and it was respect for his judgment especially that located it where it is.

One Reuben Rouzy owed Washington a thousand pounds. An agent of the president, without his knowledge, brought an action against Rouzy for the money, in consequence of which he was lodged in jail. A friend of the debtor suggested that Washington might know nothing of the affair, whereupon Rouzy sent a petition to the president for his release. The next post brought an order for his release, with a full discharge, and [457]a severe reprimand to the agent.

Rouzy was restored to his family, who ever afterwards remembered their "beloved Washington" in their daily prayers. Providence smiled upon the debtor, so that in a few years he offered the whole amount, with interest, to Washington.

"The debt is already discharged," said Washington.

"The debt of my family to you, the preserver of their parent, can never be discharged," answered Rouzy. "I insist upon your taking it."

"I will receive it only upon one condition," added the president.

"And what is that?"

"That I may divide it among your children," replied Washington.

The affair was finally settled on this basis, and the amount was divided at once among the children.

The success of his first presidential term created the universal desire that he should serve a second term.

"It is impossible; my private business demands my attention," he said to Jefferson.

"Public business is more important," suggested Jefferson. "Besides, the confidence of the whole Union is centred in you."

"I long for home and rest," retorted Washington. "I am wearing out with [458]public service."

"I trust and pray God that you will determine to make a further sacrifice of your tranquility and happiness to the public good," remarked Hamilton, joining in the plea for a second term of service.

"It will be time enough for you to have a successor when it shall please God to call you from this world," said Robert Morris; thus limiting the demands of his country only by the demand of death.

His objections were overcome, and he was unanimously elected to a second term, and was inaugurated March 4, 1793, in Philadelphia.

His second presidential term proved equally successful with the first. Serious difficulties with England, France, and Spain were settled; a treaty with the Indian tribes was affected, and a humane policy adopted towards them. The mechanic arts, agriculture, manufactures, and internal improvements, advanced rapidly under his administration. Domestic troubles disappeared, and peace and harmony prevailed throughout the land; in view of which, Jefferson said:

"Never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great and to place him in the same constellation with whatever worthies have merited from man an everlasting remembrance."

During his presidency he made a tour through the Southern States. His arrangement for the same furnishes a remarkable illustration of the order and punctuality for which he was known from boyhood. Thinking that the heads of the several State departments might have occasion to write [459]to him, he wrote out his route thus:

"I shall be, on the eighth of April, at Fredericksburg; the eleventh, at Richmond; the fourteenth, at Petersburg; the sixteenth, at Halifax; the eighteenth, at Tarborough; the twentieth, at Newtown;" and thus on to the end, a journey of nineteen hundred miles.

Custis says: "His punctuality on that long journey astonished every one. Scarcely would the artillery-men unlimber the cannon when the order would be given, 'Light your matches; the white chariot is in full view!'" Washington rode in a white chariot.

His industry, which had become proverbial, enabled him to perform a great amount of work. General Henry Lee once said to him:

"Mr. President, we are amazed at the amount of work you are able to accomplish."

"I rise at four o'clock, sir, and a great deal of the work I perform is done while others are asleep," was Washington's reply.

At the same time his thoroughness and method appeared in everything. Mr. Sparks says:

"During his presidency it was likewise his custom to subject the treasury reports and accompanying documents to the process of tutelar condensation, with a vast expenditure of labor and patience."


Another biographer says:

"His accounts, while engaged in the service of his country, were so accurately kept, that to this hour they are an example held up before the nations."

In all these things the reader must note that "the boy is father of the man."

Under his administration there was no demand, as now, for "civil service reform." His nearest relative and best friend enjoyed no advantage over others for position. Real qualifications and experience for office he required. Alluding to the severity with which he treated the idea of giving friends and favorites position, a public man remarked:

"It is unfortunate to be a Virginian."

At the close of his long service, he wrote:

"In every nomination to office, I have endeavored, as far as my own knowledge extended, or information could be obtained, to make fitness of character my primary object."

At one time two applicants for an important office presented their appeals, through friends. One of them was an intimate friend of the president, often at his table. The other was a political enemy, though a man of experience. No one really expected that his political enemy would be appointed, but he was.

"Your appointment was unjust," a person dared to say to Washington.


"I receive my friend with a cordial welcome," answered Washington. "He is welcome to my house and welcome to my heart; but, with all his good qualities, he is not a man of business. His opponent is, with all his political hostility to me, a man of business. My private feelings have nothing to do with this case. I am not George Washington, but President of the United States; as George Washington, I would do this man any kindness in my power; but as President of the United States, I can do nothing."

In 1793 Washington was deeply affected by the news of Lafayette's exile and incarceration in Germany. He took measures at once to secure his release, if possible, and sent him a thousand guineas. Lafayette's son, who was named after the American general, George Washington Lafayette, came to this country, accompanied by his tutor, when his father was driven into exile. After the close of Washington's public life, young Lafayette became a member of his family at Mount Vernon. His father was not liberated until 1797.

The following maxims, gleaned from his prolific writings, disclose the principles which governed his actions in public life, and at the same time they magnify his ability as a writer. When we reflect that his schooldays embraced instruction only in reading, writing, and arithmetic, to which he added surveying later, the clearness and elegance of his style become a matter of surprise. His epistolary correspondence is a model to all who would attain excellence in the art; and his grasp of thought and practical view of government and science, are unsurpassed by any statesman. Of the large number of notable extracts we might collect from his writings, we have space for a few only, as follows:


"Our political system may be compared to the mechanism of a clock, and we should derive a lesson from it; for it answers no good purpose to keep the smaller wheels in order if the greater one, which is the support and prime mover of the whole, is neglected."

"Common danger brought the States into confederacy; and on their union our safety and importance depend."

"Remember that actions, and not the commission, make the officer. More is expected from him than the title."

"Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness."

"True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation."

"To share the common lot, and participate in conveniences which the army, from the peculiarity of our circumstances, are obliged to undergo, has with me, been a fundamental principle."

"The value of liberty is enhanced by the difficulty of its attainment, and the worth of character appreciated by the trial of adversity."

"It is our duty to make the best of our misfortunes, and not suffer passion to interfere with our interest and the public good."[463]

"In my estimation, more permanent and genuine happiness is to be found in the sequestered walks of connubial life than in the giddy rounds of promiscuous pleasure, or the more tumultuous and imposing scenes of successful ambition."

"Without virtue and without integrity, the finest talents and the most brilliant accomplishments can never gain the respect and conciliate the esteem of the truly valuable part of mankind."

"Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder."

"A good moral character is the first essential in a man. It is, therefore, highly important to endeavor not only to be learned, but virtuous."

"The eyes of Argus are upon us, and no slip will pass unnoticed."

"It is much easier to avoid disagreements than to remove discontents."

"The man who would steer clear of shelves and rocks, must know where they lie."

"Do not conceive that fine clothes make fine men, any more than fine feathers make fine birds."

"We ought not to look back, unless it be to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting b[464]y dear-bought experience."

"Gaming is the child of Avarice, the brother of Iniquity, and the father of Mischief."

"Religion is as necessary to reason as reason is to religion. The one cannot exist without the other."

"The propitious smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which heaven itself has ordained."

"Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail, in exclusion of religious principle."

We might fill many pages with similar quotations from his writings, but must forbear.

He was urged strongly to serve his country a third presidential term, but he resolutely declined. Retiring from public service, he left a remarkable farewell address to the people of the United States, which is here given in full. Every American boy who has patriot blood in his veins will delight in being familiar with its every thought and precept.



Friends and Fellow-Citizens:

The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprize you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made. I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that, in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

2. The acceptance of and continuance hitherto in the office to which your sufferages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I have been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and [466]the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.

3. I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty or propriety; and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that in the present circumstances of our country you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

4. The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

5. In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the [467]opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and the guarantee of the plans by which they were effected.

6. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its benevolence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation, and so prudent a use of this blessing, as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and the adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

7. Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments, which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you [468]with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motives to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion. Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

8. The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

9. For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. [469]Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of America, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes. But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your interest; here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole.

10. The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the latter great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise, and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water will more and more find, a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort; and what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the [470]weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connection with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

11. While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in union, all the parties combined cannot fail to find, in the united mass of means and efforts, greater strength, greater resources, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations, and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same government; which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues, would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty; in this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

12. These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope [471]that a proper organization of the whole, with the auxiliary agency of government for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. 'Tis well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to union affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who, in any quarter, may endeavor to weaken its bands.

13. In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as a matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations,—Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western,—whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head: they have seen in the negotiation by the executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the general government and in the Atlantic States, unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain and that with Spain, which secure to them everything they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the Union by which they were procured? Will they not [472]henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren, and connect them with aliens?

14. To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts, can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government, better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution, which at any time exists till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government, presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

15. All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize [473]faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force—to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common councils, and modified by mutual interests. However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp to themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

16. Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite not only that you speedily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion exposes to perpetual change from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will [474]find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

17. I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally. The spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy. The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which, in different ages and countries, has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitor, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

18. Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the [475]interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another; foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

19. There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This, within certain limits, is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of a popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose; and there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

20. It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those intrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding, in the exercise of the powers of one department, to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which [476]predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the guardian of public weal against invasions by the others, has seen evinced by experiments ancient and modern, some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to constitute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment, in a way which the Constitution designates; but let there be no change by usurpation: for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield.

21. Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? and let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious [477]principle. 'Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

22. Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened. As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit: one method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace; and remembering, also, that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulations of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should co-operate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; and the intrinsic embarrassment inseparable from the selection of the proper object (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.


23. Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

24. In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that in place of them just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation prompted by ill will and resentment sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other [479]sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

25. So likewise a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to the concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions, by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld; and it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

26. As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practise the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinions, to influence or awe public councils! Such an attachment of small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellites of the latter. Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens), the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and [480]experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate, to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests. The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

27. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities. Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.


28. Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice? 'Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world, so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary, and would be unwise, to extend them. Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extra ordinary emergencies.

29. Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand, neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying, by gentle means, the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them, conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that 'tis folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence whatever it may accept under that character; that by such acceptance it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalent for nominal [482]favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. 'Tis an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

30. In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations: but if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigues, and guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated. How far, in the discharge of my official duties, I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records, and other evidences of my conduct, must witness to you and to the world. To myself the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.

31. In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my proclamation on the 22d of April, 1793, is the index to my plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your representatives in both houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempt to deter or divert me from it. After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to [483]take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.

32. The consideration which respects the right to hold the conduct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe, that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the belligerent powers, has been virtually admitted by all. The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose upon every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations. The inducements of interest for observing that conduct, will be best referred to your own reflection and experience. With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress, without interruption, to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

33. Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service, with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest. Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I [484]anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government—the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.

George Washington.

On closing his presidential career, March 4, 1797, Washington retired to Mount Vernon, to spend the remnant of his days in retirement. It was not long, however, before the prospect of a war with France prompted the nation to ask him to take command of its armies, to which he consented, although he declared that there would be no war—a conclusion which subsequent events fully justified. John Adams was president, and he wrote to Washington:

"We must have your name, if you will in any case permit us to use it. There will be more efficacy in it than in many an army."

Having said nothing particularly concerning Washington as a slave-holder, we may add, in closing this chapter, that he believed, with Jefferson, that slavery was a cruel wrong, and ought to be abolished. He said to Jefferson, before he was president:

"I never mean, unless some particular circumstances should compel me to it, to possess another slave by purchase; it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which slaver[485]y in this country may be abolished by law." In another letter he says, "I can only say there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of it; but there is only one proper and effectual mode by which it can be accomplished, and that is by legislative authority, and this, as far as my suffrage will go, shall never be wanting."

During his presidency in New York, Mrs. Washington's favorite maid Ovey ran away, and she besought her husband to take measures to find her. Laughing, Washington replied:

"I, who have been fighting for liberty, would appear finely in pursuit of a runaway slave!"

He freely expressed his abhorrence of slavery to Lafayette during the war; and when the latter purchased an estate in Cayenne, with the intention of freeing the slaves upon it, Washington wrote to him:

"Your late purchase is a generous and noble proof of your humanity. Would to God a like spirit might diffuse itself generally in the minds of the people of this country!"

His will provided for the emancipation of his slaves, so far as possible. "Under the tenure by which the dower negroes are held he could not manumit them." But the will ran thus:

"Upon the decease of my wife, it is my will and desire that all the slaves whom I hold in my own right shall receive their freedom."

After his death, Mrs. Washington proceeded to emancipate the slaves, [486]agreeable to his wishes, at expressed in his last "will and testament."


In December, 1799, there came a cold, bleak morning, with drizzling rain and sleet.

"I would not go out this uncomfortable day," Mrs. Washington said to her husband, observing that he was preparing to go out to his daily task.

"It is not much of a storm," Washington replied. "Besides, I have a piece of work under way that I must superintend."

"I fear that you will take cold," continued Mrs. Washington. "Sitting at the fire is more fitting for a man of your age than exposing yourself in such a storm."

He went, however, nor returned until almost time for dinner. His locks were covered with snow and sleet, and he was quite wet.

Mrs. Washington advised him to change his apparel, but he declined, saying:

"The wet is of little consequence. I shall soon be dry."


In the evening he read aloud to his family as usual although he was somewhat hoarse. The next day, the storm was still more severe, and he remained within doors, complaining of a slight cold. Again he read aloud to his family in the evening. This was on Friday, the thirteenth day of December.

On retiring, Mr. Lear, his private secretary, said to him:

"General, you had better take something for your cold."

"No," replied Washington; "you know that I never take anything for a cold. Let it go as it came."

About three o'clock in the morning he awoke with a chill, feeling very unwell. Still, he would not allow his wife to get up, fearing that she might take cold. A servant came in to build a fire, when he sent for Mr. Rawlins, an overseer, to bleed him, which, at that time, was a method of treatment universally adopted. The overseer was accustomed to bleed negroes, but he hesitated to practise on Washington.

"I would not be bled; you need more strength instead of less," interposed his wife, but Washington had confidence in the method. "Don't be afraid," he said to the overseer; "make the orifice large enough."

But he grew worse rapidly, and early in the morning Dr. Craik was sent for. Washington said to Mr. Lear, his private secretary:

"I cannot last long. I feel that I am going. I believed from the first that the attack would prove fatal."


"I hope not," answered Mr. Lear, rather surprised by these words. "The doctor will give you relief, I trust, when he arrives."

"Do you arrange and record all my military letters and papers; arrange my accounts and settle my books, as you know more about them than any one else," Washington continued.

"That I will do," replied Mr. Lear; "but I hope you will live many years yet."

"Do you think of anything else it is essential for me to do? for I am confident that I shall continue but a very short time with you," continued Washington.

"I can think of nothing," answered Mr. Lear, and then repeated his opinion that he was not so near the end.

Smiling, the great man responded:

"I am certainly near the end, and I look forward to the hour of dissolution with perfect resignation."

Turning to Mrs. Washington, he said, "Go to my desk, and in the private drawer you will find two papers; bring them to me."

The papers were brought, when he added, taking one paper in each hand:

"These are my wills. Preserve this one, and burn the other."

Dr. Craik arrived about ten o'clock, and remained with him until his [489]death. Drs. Brown and Dick were sent for, and every effort possible made to save his life.

"I am much obliged for all your care and attention," he said to the physicians; "but do not trouble yourselves any more about me. Let me pass away quietly. I cannot last long."

Later he said to Dr. Craik:

"Doctor, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go." He was then struggling for breath.

At eight o'clock in the evening he appeared unable to speak. Mr. Lear says:

"I aided him all in my power, and was gratified in believing he felt it, for he would look upon me with eyes speaking gratitude, but unable to utter a word without great distress."

At ten o'clock he appeared to make a desperate effort to speak, and at length said to Mr. Lear: "I am just going. Have me decently buried, and do not let my body be put into the vault in less than three days after I am dead."

Mr. Lear signified his assent by a nod.

As if not satisfied with that, Washington looked up to him again, and said:

"Do you understand me?"


"Yes, sir," Mr. Lear answered distinctly.

"It is well," added the dying man—the last words he spoke.

Mr. Lear describes the closing scene thus:

"About ten minutes before he expired, his breathing became much easier; he lay quietly. He withdrew his hand from mine and felt his own pulse. I spoke to Dr. Craik, who sat by the fire; he came to the bedside. The general's hand fell from his wrist; I took it in mine and placed it on my breast. Dr. Craik closed his eyes, and he expired without groan or struggle."

Mrs. Washington had been sitting in silent grief all the while, at the foot of the bed; but now she inquired with calmness:

"Is he gone?"

No one could answer; hearts were too full for utterance. But Mr. Lear "held up his hand as a signal that he was gone."

"It is well," responded Mrs. Washington, with firm, unfaltering voice. "All is over now; I shall soon follow him; I have no more trials to pass through."

Mr. Custis says, "Close to the couch of the sufferer resting her head upon that ancient Book with which she had been wont to hold pious communion a portion of every day for more than half a century, was the venerable consort, absorbed in silent prayer, and from which she only arose when the mourning group prepared to lead her from the chamber of [491]the dead. Such were the last hours of Washington."

The news of the ex-president's death spread rapidly for that day when railroads and telegraphs were unknown, and the sadness and mourning were universal. Congress was in session at Philadelphia, but did not receive the sad intelligence until the 18th of December, the day of the funeral at Mount Vernon.

The members of Congress appeared to be overwhelmed by the calamity, and immediately adjourned. On assembling the next day, they eulogized both by speech and resolution the illustrious dead; ordered that a marble monument, bearing the record of his great achievements, be erected at Washington; and appointed General Henry Lee to deliver a eulogy before both branches of Congress on the 26th. The Senate addressed an eloquent and pathetic letter to President Adams, in which it was said:

"On this occasion it is manly to weep. To lose such a man, at such a crisis, is no common calamity to the world. Our country mourns a father. The Almighty Disposer of human events has taken from us our greatest benefactor and ornament. It becomes us to submit with reverence to Him, 'who maketh darkness his pavilion.'... Thanks to God, his glory is consummated! Washington yet lives on earth, in his spotless example; his spirit is in Heaven.

"Let his country consecrate the memory of the heroic general, the patriotic statesman, and the virtuous sage. Let them teach their children never to forget that the fruits of his labors and his example are their inheritance."

The funeral ceremonies were performed at Mount Vernon on the 18th, under [492]the direction of Rev. Mr. Davis, rector of the parish, assisted by other clergymen. The people came from many miles around to pay a grateful tribute of respect to the honored dead. Almost the entire population of Alexandria, nine miles distant, was there, including its military companies. Eleven pieces of cannon were sent from that city, and one of its leading citizens, Robert Morris, anchored a schooner in the Potomac, in front of the Mount Vernon residence, from which minute-guns were fired during the funeral exercises and the march of the long procession to the tomb.

His remains were deposited in the old family vault, which was so dilapidated that the proprietor was thinking of building a new one. Only two or three days before he was taken sick, he called the attention of his nephew to the spot where he should build it, and, referring to other work demanding his attention, he added:

"But the tomb must be built first, since I may need it first."

It would be quite impossible to describe the scene of sorrow that pervaded the country when the death of Washington became known. Congress enacted that the 22d of February, Washington's birthday, should be observed for funeral services throughout the nation. Every method of expressing grief known to an afflicted people was called into requisition. Houses of worship, public halls, State capitals, schoolrooms, stores, and even dwellings were hung in mourning draperies on that day. Sermons, eulogies, and resolutions by public bodies were multiplied throughout the Union. The sorrow was universal.

Irving says:


"Public testimonials of grief and reverence were displayed in every part of the Union. Nor were these sentiments confined to the United States. When the news of Washington's death reached England, Lord Bridport, who had command of a British fleet of nearly sixty sail of the line, lying at Torbay, lowered his flag half-mast, every ship following the example; and Bonaparte, First Consul of France, on announcing his death to the army, ordered that black crape should be suspended from all the standards and flags throughout the public service for ten days."

The great American orator of that day, Fisher Ames, delivered a eulogy before the Massachusetts Legislature, in which he said:

"The fame he enjoyed is of the kind that will last forever; yet it was rather the effect than the motive of his conduct. Some future Plutarch will search for a parallel to his character. Epaminondas is perhaps the brightest name of all antiquity. Our Washington resembled him in his purity and the ardor of his patriotism; and like him, he first exalted the glory of his country."

Lord Brougham said:

"How grateful the relief which the friend of mankind, the lover of virtue, experiences, when, turning from the contemplation of such a character [Napoleon], his eye rests upon the greatest man of our own or of any age; the only one upon whom an epithet, so thoughtlessly lavished by men, may be innocently and justly bestowed!"

Edward Everett, by whose efforts and influence "The Ladies' Mount Vernon [494]Association of the Union" were enabled to purchase (twenty-five years ago) two hundred acres of the estate, including the mansion-house and tomb, for preservation and improvement, says, in his biography of Washington:

"In the final contemplation of his character, we shall not hesitate to pronounce Washington, of all men that have ever lived, The greatest of good men and the best of great men!"

Posterity honors itself by calling him

"The Father of His Country!"


In obedience to your will, I rise, your humble organ, with the hope of executing a part of the system of public mourning which you have been pleased to adopt, commemorative of the death of the most illustrious and most beloved personage this country has ever produced; and which, while it transmits to posterity your sense of the awful event, faintly represents your knowledge of the consummate excellence you so cordially honor.

Desperate, indeed, is any attempt on earth to meet correspondently this [495]dispensation of Heaven; for while, with pious resignation, we submit to the will of an all-gracious Providence, we can never cease lamenting, in our finite view of Omnipotent Wisdom, the heart-rending privation for which our nation weeps. When the civilized world shakes to its centre; when every moment gives birth to strange and momentous changes; when our peaceful quarter of the globe, exempt, as it happily has been, from any share in the slaughter of the human race, may yet be compelled to abandon her pacific policy, and to risk the doleful casualties of war; what limit is there to the extent of our loss? None within the reach of my words to express; none which your feelings will not disavow.

The founder of our federate republic, our bulwark in war, our guide in peace, is no more. Oh that this were but questionable! Hope, the comforter of the wretched, would pour into our agonizing hearts its balmy dew; but, alas! there is no hope for us. Our Washington is removed forever. Possessing the stoutest frame and purest mind, he had passed nearly to his sixty-eighth year in the enjoyment of high health, when, habituated by his care of us to neglect himself, a slight cold, disregarded, became inconvenient on Friday, oppressive on Saturday, and, defying every medical interposition, before the morning of Sunday, put an end to the best of men. An end did I say? His fame survives, bounded only by the limits of the earth and by the extent of the human mind. He survives in our hearts, in the growing knowledge of our children, in the affections of the good throughout the world; and when our monuments shall be done away, when nations now existing shall be no more, when even our young and far-spreading empire shall have perished, still will our Washington's glory unfaded shine, and die not, until love of virtue cease on earth, or earth itself sink into chaos.

How, my fellow-citizens, shall I single to your grateful hearts his pre-eminent worth? Where shall I begin in opening to your view a [496]character throughout sublime? Shall I speak of his warlike achievements, all springing from obedience to his country's will, all directed to his country's good?

Will you go with me to the banks of the Monongahela to see your youthful Washington supporting, in the dismal hour of Indian victory, the ill-fated Braddock, and saving, by his judgment and by his valor, the remains of a defeated army, pressed by the conquering savage foe? Or when oppressed America, nobly resolving to risk her all in defence of her violated rights, he was elevated by the unanimous voice of Congress to the command of her armies, will you follow him to the high grounds of Boston, where, to an undisciplined, courageous, and virtuous yeomanry, his presence gave the stability of system, and infused the invincibility of love of country? Or shall I carry you to the painful scenes of Long Island, York Island, and New Jersey, when, combating superior and gallant armies, aided by powerful fleets, and led by chiefs high in the roll of fame, he stood the bulwark of our safety, undismayed by disaster, unchanged by change of fortune? Or will you view him in the precarious fields of Trenton, where deep glooms, unnerving every arm, reigned triumphant through our thinned, worn down, unaided ranks, himself unmoved? Dreadful was the night! It was about this time of winter. The storm raged; the Delaware, rolling furiously with floating ice, forbade the approach of man. Washington, self-collected, viewed the tremendous scene; his country called. Unappalled by surrounding dangers, he passed to the hostile shore; he fought, he conquered. The morning sun cheered the American world. Our country rose on the event, and her dauntless chief, pursuing his blow, completed on the lawns of Princeton what his vast soul had conceived on the shores of the Delaware.

Thence to the strong grounds of Morristown he led his small but gallant [497]band, and through an eventful winter, by the high efforts of his genius, whose matchless force was measurable only by the growth of difficulties, he held in check formidable hostile legions, conducted by a chief experienced in the art of war, and famed for his valor on the ever-memorable heights of Abraham, where fell Wolfe, Montcalm, and, since, our much lamented Montgomery, all covered with glory. In this fortunate interval, produced by his masterly conduct, our fathers, ourselves, animated by his resistless example, rallied around our country's standard, and continued to follow her beloved chief through the various and trying scenes to which the destinies of our Union led.

Who is there that has forgotten the vales of Brandywine, the fields of Germantown, or the plains of Monmouth? Everywhere present, wants of every kind obstructing, numerous and valiant armies encountering, himself a host, he assuaged our sufferings, limited our privations, and upheld our tottering republic. Shall I display to you the spread of the fire of his soul by rehearsing the praises of the hero of Saratoga and his much loved compeer of the Carolina? No: our Washington wears not borrowed glory. To Gates, to Greene, he gave, without reserve, the applause due to their eminent merit; and long may the chiefs of Saratoga and of Eutaws receive the grateful respect of a grateful people.

Moving in his own orbit, he imparted heat and light to his most distant satellites; and, combining the physical and moral force of all within his sphere, with irresistible weight he took his course, commiserating folly, disdaining vice, dismaying treason, and invigorating despondency, until the auspicious hour arrived when, united with the intrepid forces of a potent magnanimous ally, he brought to submission the since conqueror of India; thus finishing his long career of military glory with a lustre corresponding with his great name, and in this, his last act of war, affixing the seal of fate to our nation's birth.


To the horrid din of war sweet peace succeeded; and our virtuous chief, mindful only of the public good, in a moment tempting personal aggrandizement, hushed the discontents of growing sedition, and, surrendering his power into the hands from which he had received it, converted his sword into a plough-share, teaching an admiring world that to be truly great you must be truly good.

Were I to stop here, the picture would be incomplete and the task imposed unfinished. Great as was our Washington in war, and much as did that greatness contribute to produce the American republic, it is not in war alone his pre-eminence stands conspicuous; his various talents, combining all the capacities of a statesman with those of a soldier, fitted him alike to guide the councils and the armies of our nation. Scarcely had he rested from his martial toils, while his invaluable parental advice was still sounding in our ears, when he who had been our shield and our sword was called forth to act a less splendid but more important part.

Possessing a clear and penetrating mind, a strong and sound judgment, calmness and temper for deliberation, with invincible firmness and perseverance in resolutions maturely formed, drawing information from all, acting from himself with incorruptible integrity and unvarying patriotism, his own superiority and the public confidence alike marked him as the man designed by Heaven to lead in the great political, as well as military, events, which have distinguished the area of his life.

The finger of an overruling Providence pointing at Washington was neither mistaken nor unobserved, when, to realize the vast hopes to which our Revolution had given birth, a change of political system [499]became indispensable.

How novel, how grand, the spectacle! independent States stretched over an immense territory, and known only by common difficulty, clinging to their Union as the rock of their safety, deciding, by frank comparison of their relative condition, to rear on that rock, under the guidance of reason, a common government, through whose commanding protection liberty and order, with their long train of blessings, should be safe to themselves and the sure inheritance of their posterity!

This arduous task devolved on citizens selected by the people, from a knowledge of their wisdom and confidence in their virtue. In this august assembly of sages and of patriots, Washington of course was found; and, as if acknowledged to be most wise where all were wise, with one voice he was declared their chief. How well he merited this rare distinction, how faithful were the labors of himself and his compatriots, the work of their hands, and our union, strength, and prosperity, the fruits of that work best attest.

But to have essentially aided in presenting to his country this consummation of her hopes, neither satisfied the claims of his fellow-citizens on his talents, nor those duties which the possession of those talents imposed. Heaven had not infused into his mind such an uncommon share of its ethereal spirit to remain unemployed, nor bestowed on him his genius unaccompanied by the corresponding duty of devoting it to the common good. To have framed a constitution, was showing only, without realizing, the general happiness. This great work remained to be done; and America, steadfast in her preference, with one voice summoned her beloved Washington, unpractised as he was in the duties of civil administration, to execute this last act in the completion of the national felicity. Obedient to her call, he assumed the high office with [500]that self-distrust peculiar to his innate modesty, the constant attendant of pre-eminent virtue. What was the burst of joy through our anxious land on this exhilarating event is known to us all. The aged, the young, the brave, the fair rivalled each other in demonstrations of their gratitude; and this high-wrought, delightful scene was heightened in its effect by the singular contest between the zeal of the bestowers and the avoidance of the receiver of the honors bestowed. Commencing his administration, what heart is not charmed with the recollection of the pure and wise principles announced by himself as the basis of his political life? He best understood the indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and individual felicity. Watching with an equal and comprehensive eye over this great assemblage of communities and interests, he laid the foundations of our national policy in the unerring, immutable principles of morality, based on religion, exemplifying the pre-eminence of free government by all the attributes which win the affections, of its citizens, or command the respect of the world.

"O fortunatos dimium sua si bona norint!"

Leading through the complicated difficulties produced by previous obligations and conflicting interests, seconded by succeeding houses of Congress, enlightened and patriotic, he surmounted all original obstructions and brightened the path of our national felicity.

The presidential term expiring, his solicitude to exchange exaltation for humility returned with a force increased with increase of age; and he had prepared his farewell address to his countrymen, proclaiming his [501]intention, when the united interposition of all around him, enforced by the eventful prospects of the epoch, produced a further sacrifice of inclination to duty. The election of president followed, and Washington, by the unanimous vote of the nation, was called to resume the chief magistracy. What a wonderful fixture of confidence! Which attracts most our admiration: a people so correct or a citizen combining an assemblage of talents forbidding rivalry, and stifling even envy itself? Such a nation deserves to be happy; such a chief must be forever revered.

War, long menaced by the Indian tribes, now broke out; and the terrible conflict, deluging Europe with blood, began to shed its baneful influence over our happy land. To the first outstretching his invincible arm, under the orders of the gallant Wayne, the American eagle soared triumphant through distant forests. Peace followed victory, and the melioration of the condition of the enemy followed peace. God-like virtue, which uplifts even the subdued savage!

To the second he opposed himself. New and delicate was the conjuncture, and great was the stake. Soon did his penetrating mind discern and seize the only course continuing to us all the blessings enjoyed. He issued his proclamation of neutrality. This index to his whole subsequent conduct was sanctioned by the approbation of both houses of Congress, and by the approving voice of the people.

To this sublime policy he invariably adhered, unmoved by foreign intrusion, unshaken by domestic turbulence.

"Justum et tenacem propositi virum,
Non civium ardor prava jubentium,
Non vultus instantis tyranny
Mente quatit solida."

Maintaining his pacific system at the expense of no duty, America, faithful to herself and unstained in her honor, continued to enjoy the delights of peace, while afflicted Europe mourns in every quarter, under the accumulated miseries of an unexampled war, miseries in which our happy country must have shared had not our pre-eminent Washington been as firm in council as he was brave in the field.

Pursuing steadfastly his course, he held safe the public happiness, preventing foreign war and quelling internal disorder, till the revolving period of a third election approached, when he executed his interrupted but inextinguishable desire of returning to the humble walks of private life.

The promulgation of his fixed resolution stopped the anxious wishes of an affectionate people from adding a third unanimous testimonial of their unabated confidence in the man so long enthroned in their hearts. When before was affection like this exhibited on earth? Turn over the records of Greece, review the annals of mighty Rome, examine the volumes of modern Europe, you search in vain. America and her Washington only afford the dignified exemplification.

The illustrious personage, called by the national voice in succession to the arduous office of guiding a free people, had no difficulties to encounter. The amicable effort of settling our difficulties with France, begun by Washington and pursued by his successor in virtue, as in station, proving abortive, America took measures of self-defence. No sooner was the public mind roused by a prospect of danger than every eye was turned to the friend of all, though secluded from public view and gray in public service. The virtuous veteran, following his plough,[D] received the unexpected summons with mingled emotions of indignation at [503]the unmerited ill-treatment of his country, and of a determination once more to risk his all in her defence.

[D] General Washington, though opulent, gave much of his time and attention to physical agriculture.

The annunciation of these feelings in his affecting letter to the president, accepting the command of the army, concludes his official conduct.

First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life; uniform, dignified, and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting.

To his equals he was condescending; to his inferiors, kind; and to the dear object of his affections, exemplarily tender; correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence, and virtue always felt his fostering hand; the purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues.

His last scene comported with the whole tenor of his life. Although in extreme pain, not a sigh, not a groan escaped him; and with undisturbed serenity he closed his well-spent life. Such was the man America has lost; such was the man for whom our nation mourns.

Methinks I see his august image, and hear falling from his venerable lips these deep-sinking words:


"Cease, sons of America, lamenting our separation. Go on and confirm, by your wisdom, the fruits of our joint councils, joint efforts, and common dangers; reverence religion; diffuse knowledge throughout your lands; patronize the arts and sciences; let liberty and order be inseparable companions. Control party spirit, the bane of free government; observe good faith to, and cultivate peace with, all nations; shut up every avenue to foreign influence; contract rather than extend national connections; rely on yourselves only; be Americans in thought, word, and deed. Thus will you give immortality to that union which was the constant object of my terrestrial labors; thus will you preserve undisturbed, to the latest posterity, the felicity of a people to me most dear; and thus will you supply (if my happiness is now aught to you) the only vacancy in the round of pure bliss high Heaven bestows."


Book Cover

Log Cabin to White House Series

A famous series of books, formerly sold at $2.00 per copy, are now popularized by reducing the price less than half. The lives of these famous Americans are worthy of a place in any library. A new book by Edward S. Ellis—"From Ranch to White House"—is a life of Theodore [505]Roosevelt, while the author of the others, William M. Thayer, is a celebrated biographer.

FROM RANCH TO WHITE HOUSE; Life of Theodore Roosevelt.

FROM BOYHOOD TO MANHOOD; Life of Benjamin Franklin.

FROM FARM HOUSE TO WHITE HOUSE; Life of George Washington

FROM LOG CABIN TO WHITE HOUSE; Life of James A. Garfield.


FROM TANNERY TO WHITE HOUSE; Life of Ulysses S. Grant.



These titles, though by different authors, also belong to this series of books:

FROM COTTAGE TO CASTLE; The Story of Gutenberg, Inventor of Printing. By Mrs. E. C. Pearson.

CAPITAL FOR WORKING BOYS. By Mrs. Julia E. M'Conaughy.

Price, postpaid, for any of the above ten books, 75¢.

A complete catalogue sent for the asking.





Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 50¢. per vol., postpaid

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Blest with natural curiosity,—sometimes called the instinct of investigation,—favored with golden opportunity, and gifted with creative ability, the Boy Inventors meet emergencies and contrive mechanical wonders that interest and convince the reader because they always "work" when put to the test.


As thought, a belief, an experiment; discouragement, hope, effort and final success—this is the history of many an invention; a history in which excitement, competition, danger, despair and persistence figure. This merely suggests the circumstances which draw the daring Boy Inventors into strange experiences and startling adventures and which demonstrate the practical use of their vanishing gun.


As in the previous stories of the Boy Inventors, new and interesting triumphs of mechanism are produced which become immediately valuable, and the stage for their proving and testing is again the water. On the surface and below it, the boys have jolly, contagious fun, and the story of their serious, purposeful inventions challenge the reader's deepest attention.

Any volume sent postpaid upon receipt of price.


Mexican and Canadian Frontier Series


Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 50¢. per vol., postpaid

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What it meant to make an enemy of Black Ramon De Barios—that is the problem that Jack Merrill and his friends, including Coyote Pete, face in this exciting tale.


Read of the Haunted Mesa and its mysteries, of the Subterranean River and its strange uses, of the value [508]of gasolene and steam "in running the gauntlet," and you will feel that not even the ancient splendors of the Old World can furnish a better setting for romantic action than the Border of the New.


As every day is making history—faster, it is said, than ever before—so books that keep pace with the changes are full of rapid action and accurate facts. This book deals with lively times on the Mexican border.


The Border Boys have already had much excitement and adventure in their lives, but all this has served to prepare them for the experiences related in this volume. They are stronger, braver and more resourceful than ever, and the exigencies of their life in connection with the Texas Rangers demand all their trained ability.

Any volume sent postpaid upon receipt of price.




Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 50¢. per vol., postpaid

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How the Bungalow Boys received their title and how they retained the right to it in spite of much opposition makes a lively narrative for lively boys.


A real treasure hunt of the most thrilling kind, with a sunken Spanish galleon as its object, makes a subject of intense interest at any time, but add to that a band of desperate men, a dark plot and a devil fish, and you have the combination that brings strange adventures into the lives of the Bungalow Boys.


The clever assistance of a young detective saves the boys from the clutches of Chinese smugglers, of whose nefarious trade they know too much. How the Professor's invention relieves a critical situation is also an exciting incident of this book.


The Bungalow Boys start out for a quiet cruise on the Great Lakes and a visit to an island. A storm and a band of wreckers interfere with the serenity of their trip, and a submarine adds zest and adventure to it.

Any volume sent postpaid upon receipt of price.




Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 50¢. per vol., postpaid

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This is an absorbing story of the continuous adventures of a motor car in the hands of Nat Trevor and his friends. It does seemingly impossible "stunts," and yet everything happens "in the nick of time."


Enemies in ambush, the peril of fire, and the guarding of treasure make exciting times for the Motor Rangers—yet there is a strong flavor of fun and freedom, with a typical Western mountaineer for spice.

THE MOTOR RANGERS ON BLUE WATER; or, The Secret of the Derelict.

The strange adventures of the sturdy craft "Nomad" and the stranger experiences of the Rangers themselves with Morello's schooner and a mysterious derelict form the basis of this well-spun yarn of the sea.


From the "Nomad" to the "Discoverer," from the sea to the sky, the scene changes in which the Motor Rangers figure. They have experiences "that never were on land or sea," in heat and cold and storm, over mountain peak and lost city, with savages and reptiles; their ship of the air is attacked by huge birds of the air; they survive explosion and earthquake; they even live to tell the tale!

Any volume sent postpaid upon receipt of price.


Tales of the New Navy


Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 50¢. per vol., postpaid

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Especially interesting and timely is this book which introduces the reader with its heroes, Ned and Herc, to the great ships of modern warfare and to the intimate life and surprising adventures of Uncle Sam's sailors.


In this story real dangers threaten and the boys' patriotism is tested in a peculiar international tangle. The scene is laid on the South American coast.


To the inventive genius—trade-school boy or mechanic—this story has special charm, perhaps, but to every reader its mystery and clever action are fascinating.


Among the volunteers accepted for Aero Service are Ned and Herc. Their perilous adventures are not confined to the air, however, although they make daring and notable flights in the name of the Government; nor are they always able to fly beyond the reach of their old "enemies," who are also airmen.

Any volume sent postpaid upon receipt of price.


Wholesome Stories of Adventure


Cloth Bound. Illustrated. Price, 50¢. per vol., postpaid

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Billie Campbell was just the type of a [513]straightforward, athletic girl to be successful as a practical Motor Maid. She took her car, as she did her class-mates, to her heart, and many a grand good time did they have all together. The road over which she ran her red machine had many an unexpected turning,—now it led her into peculiar danger; now into contact with strange travelers; and again into experiences by fire and water. But, best of all, "The Comet" never failed its brave girl owner.


Wherever the Motor Maids went there were lively times, for these were companionable girls who looked upon the world as a vastly interesting place full of unique adventures—and so, of course, they found them.


It is always interesting to travel, and it is wonderfully entertaining to see old scenes through fresh eyes. It is that privilege, therefore, that makes it worth while to join the Motor Maids in their first 'cross-country run.


South and West had the Motor Maids motored, nor could their education by travel have been more wisely begun. But now a speaking acquaintance with their own country enriched their anticipation of an introduction to the British Isles. How they made their polite American bow and how they were received on the other side is a tale of interest and inspiration.

Any volume sent postpaid upon receipt of price.

HURST & CO. Publishers, NEW YORK